Biography: Mary Blair

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Birth/Death

Birth: October 21, 1911, McAlester Oklahoma.
Death: July 26, 1978

Occupation/Title

color stylist and designer

Bio Summary

Blair graduated from the Chouinard School of Art which became known as the California School of Watercolor. She wanted to become a fine art watercolorist, but because of the great depression it was not a dream she could achieve. She soon married Lee Blair, and they both began working for Disney in 1934. For the next 37 years she has been working on and off for Disney. She died of a cerebral Hemorrage in July 26, 1978.

Early Life/Family

During her earlier years born as Mary Browne Robinson. Her family moved to San Jose in 1920. Her family was a very poverty stricken family because of the great depression, however she was always one to strive and become a successful artist. She received a scholarship at Chouinard school of Art and met Lee Everett Blair. The two married March 3, 1934 after they both graduated in 1933. She eventually went back to stay with her parents because of the bleak market industry. She worked as a barmaid until she soon became a cell painter for Ub Iwerks studio.

Education/Training

San Jose State College, Chouinard School of Art in Los Angeles.

Career Outline

Joined the Ub Iwerks studio, went to the Walt Disney Studios in 1940, worked on concept art for the animated feature films, Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros. She worked heavily from 1950 to 1953 on color styling for Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan. Resigned from Disney after Peter Pan to do graphic designes and illustrations for Nabidsco, Pepsodent, Maxwell House, and Beatrice Foods.She also illustrated several Golden Books for publisher Simon and Schuster and she designed Christmas and Easter sets for Radio City Music Hall. Mary soon began working on Walt Disney’s It’s a Small World attraction. 1967 she created mural art for Tomorrow Land’s Adventure Thru Inner Space. In the same year she had also been given credit to the film version of “How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying”.

Comments On Style

She liked to use flat graphic color to describe her images, using complementary colors and different shades to bring her art work to life.Animator Mark Davis says that Mary’s work is “on par with Matisse”. Frank Thomas notes that “she was the first artist I knew to have different shades of red next to each other”.

Influences

Some of Blair’s instructors during her college years such as illustrator Pruett Carter, and Chouinard’s master composition teacher Lawrence Murphy.

Personality

Strong willed, confident, child at heart. Mary’s art always showed a soft innocence, which contrasted the dark and dismal mood of the time.

Anecdotes

Disney had been informed by the United States office of the Co-ordinater of Inter-American Affairs to make films as part of the U.S. “Good Neighbor” policy with South America. So Mary and Lee Blair went to South America, which is where she developed her style of bright whimsical colors with a flat graphic style.

Miscellaneous

Mary Blair, even though loved by Walt Disney and many other Disney animators, was often at odds with the artists because of her not so film ready style. The animators tended to have a difficult time trying to keep her flat non- realistic style, while remaining with their more realistic Disney characters.

Filmography

Saludos Amigos -1942 (herself)
The Three Caballeros -1944 (art supervisor)

Song of the South -1946 (color stylist)
Make Mine Music -1946 (art director)
Melody Time -1948 (color and styling) 
Johnny Appleseed -1948 (color stylist)
Cinderella -1950 (color and styling
Alice in Wonderland -1951(color and styling)
Peter Pan -1953 (color and styling)
Lake Titicaca -1955 (color and styling)
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow -1958 (color stylist)

Honors

Honored as a Disney Legend in 1991
Winsor McCay Award from ASIFA-Hollywood in 1996

Related Links

http://wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Blair
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0086304/
http://www.bobstaake.com/artists/maryblair/page1.html
http://www.lorenjavier.com/popculture/maryblair.html

Bibliographic References

Contributors To This Listing

Ulysses Albert III

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