England, active United States, 1913-2007
Matte Painting for “Spartacus” (1959), Oil on glass
Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, gift of the Estate of Peter Ellenshaw
“Though largely unknown to the public, matte painters have helped create some of the most memorable images in film… These literal “movie artists” have painstakingly hand-painted entire fictional settings, glorious landscapes, and amazing illusions. Their visionary works have thus provided backdrops for places and times that were impossible to travel to, could only be imagined, or were too costly to create.” – Julio Vera, Academy Museum of Motion Pictures
There are various techniques for creating mattes to extend or replace sets. For this vista of the Roman Republic, a large sheet of glass was suspended in front of the camera during filming, with the areas that would be replaced blacked out. The matte painting was produced on glass in the studio, with the areas for live action blacked out. These two elements were then composited to form a single image. Ellenshaw, who created this matte painting for “Spartacus,” was a recognized master of the art.