style 6

19 07 2009

MARY BLAIR, born in 1911, was married to LEE BLAIR ( brother of PRESTON BLAIR, well known for his ‘how to animate’-booklet ). both became very well know watercolor artists, LEE even was at the age of 23 the president of the CALIFORNIA WATERCOLOR SOCIETY. lee blair joined disney in 1938 and became one of the art directors on PINOCCHIO. MARY BLAIR went to work for MGM – animation.

0156.mary blair

0173.mary blair

0181.mary blair

0194.mary blair

but in 1940 she left MGM and started at the disney studio as well, in the CHARACTER MODEL DEPARTMENT, headed by JOE GRANT. for joe’s idea of LADY AND THE TRAMP she created numerous watercolor sketches. during the early war years, in 1941, disney and a group of designers and animators went on a good will tour through southern america. mary blair joined the group and got walt disney’s attention with some concept designs for the by this trip inspired features SALUDOS AMIGOS and THREE CABALLEROS.

0225.mary blair

0311.mary blair

0405.mary blair

0422.mary blair

from the mid-forties on she designed most of the disney films, all the way through CINDERELLA, ALICE IN WONDERLAND and PETER PAN. in 1953 she left the studio to follow her own ideas in paintings, children books and other areas incl. some major advertising campaigns. disney asked her to come back in the sixties to design attractions for disneyland. she died in 1978.

0576.mary blair

0667.mary blair


mary blair’s influences were very different. they came from contemporary commercial art like european advertising posters, VOGUE fashion designs, NEW YORKER covers as well as folk art and the colorful southern-american culture.




© disney enterprises, inc




15 responses

19 07 2009

Mary Blair is just fantastic! I love that one whit the shadows of the card-soldiers from Alice. I never realised that Mary Blair and Preston Blair were related, thanks!

19 07 2009

Mary blair, her artistic range and variety is astounding ,thankx for sharing 🙂
for me ur blog is an extension to the book “ILLUSIONS of LIFE” i owe much to tht book , n each time i visit ur blog , i learn so much ,
thankx again:)

20 07 2009
george cwirkogodycki

these are so lovely, she was really the best

20 07 2009
Drake Brodahl

Great post, Hans. I’ve been wondering, since Mary Blair and Alice and Martin Provensen spent time at Disney together, who do you think influenced whom the most? There are striking similarities in some their work… Funny Bunny and A Child’s Garden of Verses by the Provensens, for example, have a lot of the same qualities as Blair’s work. But who came up with the aesthetic? I’d love to hear your take on it.

from hans –
I don’t know of course who came up with the ideas. but I think that a lot developed automatically within this whole team, especially with an incredible talented group of artists. and don’t forget, there were about 15 different artists, amongst them gustaf tenggren and kay nielsen. I can imagine that working within such a group you take off like a rocket. everybody influenced everybody.

21 07 2009
Drake Brodahl

Indeed! Thanks for the reply, Hans.

20 07 2009

Amazing stuff. Still inspiring. However, I am very tired of other people these days copying this style and pawning it off as “Mary Blair” style. She was unique, and very much timeless and of her time–both great things to be. But to those who insist on emulating this, it’s time to move on. There are MANY other cool styles out there to explore.

21 07 2009
Drake Brodahl


Sorry, but I’ve read this same complaint about artists supposedly emulating Mary Blair before. Frankly, I think it’s a lazy and uninformed (did I mention unoriginal?) comment. It shows that you simply haven’t done your homework and perhaps, are merely copying something you read elsewhere.

Can you even name any of these so-called copycats? I’ve been racking my brain and can’t come up with one. Sure, I can come up with with many who’ve been influenced by her (and deservedly so), but not a single one of them is a Blair copycat. They have a slew of influences and their own personality in the work. I’m tired of hearing this blanket complaint on nearly every Mary Blair post… time for YOU to move on.

Seriously, there are people ripping off nearly every artist from history… more recently Frazetta, Searle, Hirschfeld… you name it. I don’t mean they draw inspiration from them, I mean they flat-out copy every facet of that artist’s work (even their signature… Max Hirschfeld for example). I have yet to see someone do a piece of art that could have people fooled that it’s an original Mary Blair, and many of these folks are great artists in their own right so if indeed they wanted to, they could.

Sorry for being harsh, man… but these kind of complaints are weary, old and off-base.

Feel free to prove me wrong.

21 07 2009
jung etienne


24 07 2009
Matt J

Hans, did you hear about this Blair show in Tokyo?

from hans –
thank you, matt. hope, it’s possible to get a catalogue.

25 07 2009

Hans; Thanks for this informative bio on Mary Blair. I’m interested most in her adv. period, but getting a broader overview certainly gives it greater context. Also interesting to read of her artistic associations with the “Golden Books; group (Provensens et al). I have a few Blair ad pieces scanned and waiting to be posted… at that time I will include a link back to this post of yours for those who’d like to read more about her and see these fine examples from her animation period.

Thanks and best – Leif :^)

25 07 2009

Oh! and also – what a revelation to read she was married to Preston Blair! *Slaps head* Of course! His cartooning book has been a valuable guide for much of my professional career. :^)

from hans –
no – please read it again. she was married to LEE BLAIR, PRESTON BLAIR’S brother

26 07 2009

Ah! Thanks for setting me straight on that. :^)

26 07 2009
Joel Brinkerhoff

Once upon a Golden time, there were three Blairs…

3 08 2009
Wm Wray

I do kind of get the complaint of the poster who is tired of the Mary Blair copyists. Admittedly there are a ton of folks influenced by her. When DC comics asked me to do some presentations of their characters in the Mary Blair style a few years ago, I knew it was a worn out train to be on, but I complied. On the other hand I love that well drawn stylized drawing has some kind of foothold in media and the younger generation. I wish that stylization extended to backgrounds besides just character proportions… I also feel that great artist eventually transcend their influences and most of the “Blair” people have…

25 02 2010
Hannah B.

Any clue what that painting with the giraffe is from?

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