Reynold Brown

Movie Poster Art and Much More

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Here is a short biography of movie poster artist Reynold Brown. For images please go to the links at bottom of the page. You can jump directly to more detailed information about some items through the thumbnails or use a more thorough, organized look by following the links at the bottom of the page. 

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Reynold Brown drawing from when he was three years old.

More information and drawings:
Childhood Development

When he was in grammar school in the 1920s Reynold Brown was picked out by his teachers as needing special discipline to correct an obvious character deficiency. He was left-handed. They forced him to write "properly", using his right hand. Those teachers were eventually pleased to tell his parents that they had succeeded in getting him to write with his right hand. Unfortunately, he continued to draw left-handed. This, the teachers assured his parents, was not important, for after all, artistic skills were of little consequence and would be unimportant to him for surviving later in life.

Reynold's mother thought otherwise. She had saved his first drawing of a train, done at the age of three. As he got older she saved his grammar school notebooks which he had peppered with drawings of soldiers and aircraft. By the time he graduated from high school he had a personal collection of drawings to which he added constantly. Forty years later those "inconsequential artistic skills" identified by his grammar school teachers would have made Brown one of the most sought after artists in Hollywood. 

  Reynold Brown was born in 1917 in Los Angeles as William Reynold Brown to William Reynold Brown (a railroad engineer) and his wife Ada (Fairley) Brown. He drew continuously as a child. He particularly liked telling stories by drawing, comic book style, for the neighborhood children while sitting on a sidewalk curb or a porch stairway.

He got a well rounded art education in Alhambra High School in California under the stewardship of a World War I veteran and artist, Lester Bonar. His skills won him a scholarship to attend Otis Art Institute after graduation but due to the death of his father he had to begin working to care for his mother and two younger sisters. Some of his first published drawings were in the local paper. They were editorial in character and promoted charitable organizations. He also did a series of drawings of mortuaries that were published.

About 1936 or '37, with the help of Bonar, he was able to get a job inking and then drawing the syndicated comic strip by Hal Forrest, "Tailspin Tommy." This strip told the story of a barnstorming pilot, Tailspin Tommy. Brown worked on the strip until 1942.

During high school Brown came to admire the great illustrators of the age, such as J.C. Leyendecker, Dean Cornwell, N.C. Wyeth and especially Norman Rockwell. Rockwell's sister taught at Brown's high school. Through Bonar, Brown was able to meet Norman Rockwell. Rockwell advised Brown that if he wanted to learn illustration he would have to leave the comic strip and start finding jobs as an illustrator. Brown left, to the dismay of Forrest.

With the outbreak of World War II Brown was able to use the aircraft rendering skills learned from working on Tailspin Tommy to land a job with North American Aviation in California. At first he did technical illustrations for service manuals. He soon devised what were to be called phantom drawings in which aircraft were drawn with a clear skin so that the internal structure of the aircraft was visible. On some of these he collaborated with another artist, Mary Louise Tejeda, the only woman artist in the department of over forty men. Brown also listened to the stories of returning aviators and used these stories as the basis of a number of illustrations which appeared in the technical manuals, advertising, North American promotional literature and its in-house publication, Skyline. The phantom drawings also appeared in Popular Aviation and Flying Magazine.

Study for pocket book cover, "Nana."

In 1946, at war's end, Brown married Mary Louise Tejeda. They moved to New York so he could pursue a career in illustration. His illustrations appeared in magazines such as Boys' Life, Outdoor Life, Popular Science and Argosy. He also did some of the first paperback or pocketbook illustrations. His work appeared on the covers of books by Van Tilburg Clark, (The Ox Bow Incident), William Faulkner (Sanctuary) and Erle (SP) Stanley Gardner (Perry Mason mysteries).
  By 1951 Brown had a growing family of three children. He was also still caring for his mother and sisters. The burdens of caring for two distant households was too much so Brown, enticed by an offer from North American, decided to move back to California. He realized he preferred the freedom of free-lance illustration, and with the encouragement of Tejeda, went back to it.

Working first in Temple City and later La Verne, he continued to do illustration work. He also took a teaching position at Art Center College of Design. There he would teach figure and head drawing for 26 years. Among his many students were some of today's finest artists including sculptors Hollis Williford and Richard Mac Donald, painters Gordon Snidow and John Asaro, and Illustrators Robert Peak and Drew Struzan.

In 1951, while doing a show for Art Center, Brown met Misha Kallis, an Art Director for Universal Pictures. Brown soon completed his first movie poster for Universal, The World in His Arms, featuring Gregory Peck and Ann Blyth. That began a series of over 250 campaigns for Universal, MGM, Disney and American International Pictures (AIP). Brown's work was used to promote classics like Ben Hur and Spartacus, westerns such as The Alamo and Taza, Son of Cochise and drama, horror, monster and science fiction films. His science fiction works for such pieces as The Time Machine and This Island Earth, as well as his monsters like The Creature from the Black Lagoon have already become popular among collectors.

Brown's work featured many important stars including Elizabeth Taylor (Cat on a Hot Tin Roof), John Wayne and Richard Widmark (The Alamo), Rod Steiger (Run of the Arrow, Al Capone), James Cagney (Man of a Thousand Faces), James Stewart (Shenandoah, The Rare Breed) and Fred MacMurray (Gun for a Coward).

While doing the movie posters Brown continued to do other illustration work for other media including a number of record jacket covers.

In the early seventies Brown decided to take part in the developing market for fine art paintings on a western theme. Brown had always liked painting the west as a subject in his illustrations. He set aside illustration work, including poster art and concentrated on western paintings for the fine arts market. Brown's skills well developed through his many years of illustrating, made his work popular and he sold about 250 oil paintings. These covered not only the west; they included portraits, harbor scenes and landscapes. He also sold work in charcoal, pencil, pastel and watercolor.

Brown suffered a severe stroke in 1976. His left side was completely paralyzed. With the help of Mary Louise, he was able to retrain himself. Although unable to do the detailed and highly representational work of his pre-stroke years, he was none-the-less able to do produce some powerful drawings and beautiful landscape paintings of Nebraska, where he settled in 1983 and remained until his death in 1991.
  His wife, Mary Louise, always at his side, continues to paint in pastel. She is now 79.

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