Eyvind Earle Illustration
Eyvind Earle (April 1916 – July 2000) was an American illustrator and fine artist, widely known for his contribution to Disney films in the 1950s, including Peter Pan, Lady and the Tramp, and perhaps most famously, Sleeping Beauty.
Earle picked up an interest in the arts early in life, and began painting at the age of 10. His father gave him a challenge- either read 50 pages of a book each day or create a painting each day. A precocious youth, Earle chose to do both. By the age of 14, he had his first solo show in France, which started his professional career. By 21 he was showing regularly in New York and selling out shows. While his early work was based in realism, he studied the work of contemporary illustrators and modern artists of his time and cultivated the highly stylized, unique graphic style that he became known for.
Having already achieved a successful career in galleries and in commercial art in print form, in 1951 he joined Disney to work as a background painter. He soon after won an Academy Award for the short film, “Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Bloom”, for which he was the principle designer. He then went on to set the style and design for all the backgrounds in Sleeping Beauty, which was highly acclaimed, and also created the dioramas still on display today at Sleeping Beauty’s castle in Disneyland. His style and bold colors helped set the iconic look of Disney film for years to follow.
After his time at Disney, he decided to return to painting original, bold landscapes, enjoying a long career exhibiting and licensing his work until the end of his life. Hundreds of his paintings have been sold on cards and products, and millions of copies of his work have been purchased from all over the world.
Looking at Earle’s work, it remains just as fresh today as it was when it was first created. His ability to juxtapose saturated colors with dark silhouettes pulls you in to take a closer look. His uncanny ability to create a scene that evokes both nostalgia and fantasy is an incredible feat. I think it’s safe to say that his work will continue to inspire for generations to come.
If you have the opportunity, a retrospective of his work will be held at the Walt Disney Family Museum, in San Francisco California, from May 18th 2017- January 8th, 2018.
Aja Mulford is an illustrator, art director, and illustration teacher based in Northern California.