If a museum exhibited original artworks commissioned for films, it would include...?

Watching Rushmore the other day, I was struck by how wonderful it is to have an original painting in a film, and how often such paintings have some crucial significance, often as a plot point. Given the trouble and expense of commissioning an original artwork (however bad it may be), it probably shouldn’t come as a surprise that artworks comissioned for films are often more significant than the run-of-the-mill piece of set dressing.

With that in mind, what original, commissioned paintings, sculptures, etc. from films would you include in a hypothetical exhibit, in which intrinsic artistic merit can freely take a back seat to the art work’s significance to the film (as is usually the case)? Wouldn’t it be a gas to see such a show and play “I.D. the film” instead of regarding the “artworks” seriously as art?
OTTOMH, I’d include:

The full-length oil portrait of Leslie Howard in The Scarlet Pimpernel. It’s a key plot point, in that Merle Oberon first realizes that her effete husband and the legendary hero are one and the same when she notices the prominent pimpernel ring her dear Percy modelled in the painting… an open secret, as it were. There’s always a certain, charming cognitive dissonance when a movie star is portrayed in a historically hidebound way – in this case, circa 1794? [Bonus value: since the 1936 film was B&W, it’d be an extra treat to see this painting in color for the first time.]

The hilariously sardonic family portrait of the Blumes in Rushmore, with Bill Murray’s Blume, his soon-to-be-estranged wife, and their two rough-and-tumble sons in a tableau of family dysfunction. Murray’s alienation as the unhappy paterfamilias is stark, in his separation from the others, his downcast, troubled gaze, and that bathetic cigarette drooping out the corner of his mouth. I don’t know if this painting can be considered as great work of art in its own right, but it’s a great gag.

The before-and-after full-length oil portraits of Hurd Hatfield as Dorian Gray in The Picture of Dorian Gray [1945], depicting the steady degradation of Dorian’s soul. Here, at least, paintings commissioned for a film found a life after the film. The artist whose work is used in the film was actually a “real” artist with something of a reputation in the art world, and the final portrait of Dorian Gray took him a year to complete.

The small sculpted marble figurine of Venus by “Cellini” – actually a clever forgery by Audrey Hepburn’s grandfather – in How To Steal a Million [1966]. The plot is of a heist necessitated by the prior fraud of pawning off the forgery to a museum years prior; Hepburn must take it back to prevent the museum’s tests from incriminating her beloved grandpa. Hepburn enlists a partner in crime [Peter O’Toole], whose character is personally attracted to the sculpture because of its ostensible resemblance to Audrey Hepburn (whom he’s also attracted to), due to its family connection to her through her grandmother, who modelled for it – albeit, as he notes, “naturally that was before she started eating those enormous lunches.”

Speaking of lawbreaking grandfathers, there’s the demented oil portrait of the original Dr. Victor Frankenstein (grandfather to Gene Wilder’s young Dr. Frankenstein and “boyfriend” to Cloris Leachman) in Young Frankenstein. Since this artwork was highlighted in fake lightning flashes in the film, I think it’d be appropriate to exhibit this one with a small strobe light set to go off intermittently, for verisimilitude. Granted, such forms of illumination as strobe lights are generally a big no-no around great works of art, but this hypothetical exhibit ain’t that kind of show…
Now, Dopers, if you were to “loan” a few pieces…?

There’s this guy, Coyoté, from an artists’ commune in the southwest, somewhere. He paints tunnels on cliff faces and such at the end of dead-end streets. His mastery of trompe-l’œil is incredible.

Typical artist, though; he can be tempermental, and doesn’t say much. I don’t know if it’s part of his art, but he seems to be into some bizarre forms of body mutilation, too. I commissioned a piece from him a while ago, and you should see the stuff he put on his expense report.

If TV counts, then the oil painting Kramer.

There are a lot of portraits from old horror movies and horror/comedies like Abbott and Costello that would be fine in museums except that the eyes have been cut out of the canvas.

There’s the statue of David Niven in The Statue, a film that’s somewhat ironic in light of Niven’s famous quip at the 1974 Oscar ceremonies: “The only laugh that man will ever get in his life is by stripping … and showing his shortcomings.” It would definitely need to have the the line as part of the display.

Just for shits and giggles, I’d include the … paintings…that were done by the young mafioso in Mickey Blue Eyes.

You’d have to have the 8’ bronze statue of Rocky Balboa from Rocky III, except that the Philadelphia Museum of Art already has it on display.

Don’t rub it in. :frowning:

Eight posts in and I’m the first to mention the portrait of Laura?

(from a movie which always confuses me because Gene’s the girl and Dana’s the guy)

Fucilli Jerry!
From The First Wives Club, the paintings of Goldie Hawn as her character Elise Elliot were a nice touch. Not that it really needed pointing out how vain she was, but still a nice touch.

If we’re adding TV, then of course all those wonderful Ernie Barnes paintings (attributed to J.J.) on Good Times.

Ooh, and this one from the Cosby Show, by Ellis Wilson.

Well, it is a one-in-a-million work of art.

Nick Nolte’s painting from New York Stories.

Sorry. I was a teenager in Philadelphia when R3 was filmed, and remember all the debates as to where the statue should go afterwards.

This is only peripherally related, but I read somewhere a long time ago that the movie studios had large numbers of oil paintings in their prop departments that were complete except for the face. If a painting was needed for a film, only that part needed completion. One wonders if they used an easily removed type of paint so that the painting could be recycled through several films.

I’ve already been beaten to mention the paintings shown in Good Times, but in MASH, Harry Morgan not only played the part of Colonel Sherman Potter, but also painted the portraits that were hanging in his office.

The portrait of Carlotta Valdes from Vertigo.

The pencil sketch of Rose from Titanic.

Well, it certainly would not include that Butt Ugly “Maltese Falcon” from the movie of the same name. No wonder the Pope disbanded the Templars!


The painting by Tommy’s mother in “Goodfellas”.

Does a movie have to be high brow? Ghost Busters II had a couple paintings done…

Peripheral, but fascinating and plausible. They weren’t averse to recycling props, costumes and sets to the extent they could, so why not paintings? It wouldn’t surprise me if a few studios had worked out deals with art schools to supply a cheap variety of faux masterworks… good for the movies, and good experience for the art students.
More entries, beginning with a lot of crappy sculpture made just for the movies: the creepy human-modelled plastercasted sculptures from A Bucket of Blood (the Corman horror flick in which an unhip waiter offs beatnik posers by turning them into artworks), and Scorcese’s After Hours, in which such an artist hides the antihero from a Soho mob by paper-mache-ing him. Also, the postmodern neo-Gothic stuff which Wynona Rider’s artsy family brought with them to their country manse, in Beetelgeuse, and the large wire man and small, roughly-textured pottery crafted by Ben Stiller’s acidhead biological parents in Flirting With Disaster.

Back to painting: Jeff Daniels fry cook’s vibrant acrylics[?] in Pleasantville. His character painted a couple of large murals, which have presumably been broken up or painted over since, but didn’t the movie also show a number of conventional works on canvas? Point being, everything of his was very colorful and revelatory of life in Pleasantville, warts and all…

And as a huge fan of **The Wicker Man ** [1973], the ominous oil painting of that now-familiar wicker work, looming over Lord Summerisle [Christopher Lee]'s shoulder when he’s being interrogated in his castle by Edward Woodward’s detective. That painting would be a terrific keepsake from a cult classic; I hope somebody grabbed it after the wrap party.