Tony Curtis - Artist Extraordinaire
A Legendary Actor's Expressions on Canvas by Kaya Morgan
Everyone has their favorite Tony Curtis film, whether it be Some Like it Hot with Marilyn Monroe and Jack Lemon, The Boston Strangler with Henry Fonda, Trapeze with Burt Lancaster and Gina Lolobrigida, or The Great Race with Natalie Wood. After 106 movies, it's no surprise that this Hollywood legend has been honored with Lifetime Achievement awards in Italy, France, Hungary, the UK, America, and been knighted in France.
The oldest of three sons of Hungarian immigrants who arrived in America with literally nothing, Tony became the member of a street gang in the Bronx by age 11. After serving a tour in the U.S. Navy, he attended City College of New York and the Dramatic Workshop in Greenwich Village where he got his first taste of acting.
Thanks to his extreme good looks as a true American Dreamboat, he was immediately offered a Universal Pictures contract and quickly became one of the biggest silver screen idols of all time. But unlike his mentor, Cary Grant, Curtis often played the character he created for himself. His well-documented life as an actor has become film legend, as they say.
The same creative talent that has helped capture on film the subtle nuances of daily life has spent the last several decades storing the sights and memories of his incredible experiences directly to canvas, in collages and constructing assemblages. Now in his second career, Tony is having more fun expressing himself than he ever thought was possible. Painting has become a way of life, “I am so pleased that I have the advantage of doing something I really love,” he says. When at his home overlooking the Las Vegas Valley with spectacular views of the Strip, he now gets to paint almost every day.
His paintings address a broad range of subjects with lush, pattern-filled, multi-colored still-lifes being a personal favorite. “Sometimes I am inspired by things in my past, while other days it can be whatever pops into my mind at the time,” he goes on to say. “But it's the colors that really move me to where the piece is going. I will begin with a color, and lay that color in all the right places, then moving to the next color almost like the pieces of a puzzle. And, I can see all the pieces perfectly fall into place on the canvas in my mind's eye.”
There's little doubt that the glitz and glamour of the movie world has left its mark on his visual images. Many of his Van Gogh-ish still life images seem larger than life and encompass great visual concepts within the confines of the canvas making a powerful statement of the artist's skill. Painted with great spontaneity, they reflect the underlying discipline that is the source of his confidence in his true artistic gift.
He has said that he wishes he had a cigar box of memories for every day of his life. And true to that theme, he has been creating mysterious little assemblages inside found containers - a crate, a shipping box, an old silverware drawer, anything that could be used to "freeze time" under glass. "Not an hour of any day goes by that I'm not finding something new to use," he says. In one box was the striking image of a hand gripping the image of an old clock thereby stopping time. Other boxes contained old snapshots or letters, rosary beads, golf balls and even shot glasses. "I've got boxes I've started years ago that are not finished yet. One day, I know I'll come across that last object that will spring out at me and say, 'Aha!' to finally make it complete."
Tony's bright acrylic canvasses have been favorably compared to those of Matisse. His assemblages, collages and boxes have been exhibited all over North America, Europe, Asia and will soon tour South America. This highly sought after artist remains prominently displayed in the private collections of Billy Wilder, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Scriver, Kathy Lee Gifford, Lew Wasserman, Frank Sinatra, Arsenio Hall, Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas. His spectacular originals can be found on display at the Butler Institute of American Art, the Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, the Toronto Museum, National Hungarian Museum, Harrods Department Store, Spago Restaurant, and the Mirgage in Las Vegas.
Well into his 80's, with his Gauguin-like appearance and silver-white shock of hair, Tony remained an active and energetic man. He celebrated his 80th Birthday with a feature layout in Vanity Fair followed by an unprecedented Fifty Year Retrospective of his art unveiled for sale to collectors at an over-the-top event at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas attended by the rich and famous from all over the world.
He passed away at home on September 29, 2010, with peace and dignity surrounded by family and friends. Tony Curtis will be missed by countless from fans around the world for his contributions to all our lives.
For more information on how to acquire his incredible art, contact us at 702.242.3247.
More stories by journalist, Kaya Morgan, can be found by clicking the link. Contact us for reprint rights as most articles are available.
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With respect to the articles and their subject matter, it is based on information provided through research and/or by the interviewed parties and is not based on any original ideas or opinions of the author.
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