Lucas Museum of Narrative Art: Behind-the-Scenes at SDCC 2019

Lucas Museum Panel Reveals Artwork Categories

by Margaret Mays

This year San Diego Comic-Con commemorates 50 years of celebrating comics and popular arts with four days of jammed packed programming and more than 800 panels to choose from. Thursday morning programing began with the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art: Behind the Scenes. The panel consisted of the museum’s founding curatorial team: Ryan Linkof, Anastacia James and Erin Curtis. 

Lucas Museum of Narrative Art slide

The building designed by Ma Yansong began construction in L.A.’s Exposition Park in early 2018. When completed, the five story structure will house a restaurant and cafe, a retail shop, a library, two state of the art cinematic theaters and both temporary and permanent exhibition spaces. The project also includes the development of 11 acres of green space around the building.

One aspect of the Museum’s focus will be on education and its location is essential to this mission. The museum will be centrally located in Los Angeles with over 500 schools within a five mile radius. While the building is currently under construction, the Education department has already begun to offer programming. Two programs highlighted were “Draw Your Power” and “Through the Lens”. Both were aimed at teaching teen participants how to tell stories through art. One through comics and the other through documentary filmmaking.

“What we aim to do is to help audiences understand that everyone has their own story to tell and that art is an important tool that everyone can use to tell their diverse stories,” said Erin Curtis.

The bulk of the presentation was focused on the museum’s collection. They presented a wide and diverse glimpse at the museums holdings. As the team dove into the collection, they presented it in several broad categories: World Art before 1950, American Art, Children’s Book Illustration, Comic Art, Photography and Cinema.

World Art Before 1950

The panel began with some of the earliest works in the collection, including an ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic tablet and a beautiful ancient Roman floor mosaic. Then jumping quickly ahead through history were pieces from the 15th century depicting biblical narratives. One piece shown by Albrecht Dürer was done shortly after the invention of the printing press. “An early version of an artwork that was disseminated widely. Mass reproduction is a common theme across the collection. Many of the works were intended for popular distribution,” said Ryan Linkof. This was further emphasized by the works featured by poster artist Alphonse Mucha. 

American Art

The category with the most representation was American Art. Many of the examples were from such well known illustrators as Norman Rockwell and NC Wyeth. Additionally, Maxwell Parish was another prolific illustrator that is widely recognized.  “In 1925 as many as one in four households had the “Daybreak” print on their wall.” according to Anastacia James. Which further reflects the theme of mass reproduction. Also included was L.A. based artist Judy Baca. The collection contains preparatory work for her massive mural, “The Great Wall of Los Angeles.” The collection contains many works created for mid-century pulp, science fiction and fantasy novels from artists such as Norman Saunders, Malcolm Smith and Frank Frazetta. 

Children’s Book Illustrations

The Children’s Book Illustrations are mainly focused on European and American works. It includes illustrations from Little Red Riding Hood and Goldilocks and the Three Bears, both done by Jesse Wilcox Smith. Included as well, are pieces by Beatrix Potter, from her series of books on Peter Rabbit. The collection also contains drawings by E.H. Shepard of Winnie the Pooh.

Comic Art

The Comic Art collection is quite impressive and begins with political cartoons from the 1800’s by British satirist James Gillray. Additional samples highlighted were Flash Gordon comics drawn by Alex Raymond, Peanuts drawn by Charles Schultz, and a number of pre code sci-fi and horror comics. Included from the Silver Age of comics are works from Jack Kirby, Barry Windsor and Neal Adams. The Museum has recently acquired more contemporary works by writer and artist Allison Bechdel from her graphic memoir, “Fun Home.”

Photography

The Museum boasts some important and iconic photographic works including Alfred Stieglitz’s The Steerage, Dorothea Lange’s Migrant Mother, Margaret Bourke-White’s American Dream and Gordon Parks’ Colored Entrance. All of these works contain social and political messages and are powerful examples of storytelling through a single image. Photography is by its nature a medium that lends itself to mass reproduction, further emphasizing this theme running through the collection.

Cinema

Rounding out the preview of the collection were objects from the Lucasfilm archives, pre-Disney acquisition. The sampling included Star Wars storyboards and concept art by Ralph McQuarrie. Also included were matte paintings for backdrop scenes produced on glass shower doors, due to the fact that the doors were the correct aspect ratio for the film. Immense amounts of props and costumes along with early prototypes and models from the Star Wars franchise, including a spectacular model of the Death Star. In addition there are also pieces from the Indiana Jones franchise, including concept art and props. Of course, no museum is complete without an Arc of the Covenant, and they have two of them. 

This was a wonderful and often times surprising glimpse into the massive and diverse collection of the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art. It will be a fantastic addition to the museum community when it opens in 2021.

VIDEO: Full Panel – Lucas Museum of Narrative Art

PODCAST: Skywalking Through San Diego Comic-Con 2019

Feel free to head to our Show Notes for more on this podcast episode.

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