Click on photos to enlarge.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Elvis Art

Elvis in White, late 1970s, Ralph Wolfe Cowan

This portrait likely dates from the
mid-1950s and may, in fact, be the
first painted likeness of the man.
With the possible exceptions of Jesus Christ, George Washington, Queen Eliz-abeth II, Abraham Lincoln, and JFK, few men have ever inspired more painters than the "King of Rock," King Elvis I (and only). Elvis, may, in fact, be second on that list. The portrait of Elvis in White (above) hangs at Graceland, Elvis' home in Memphis, Tennessee. Normally I'd be trying to digitally enhance the painting by lightening Elvis' complexion. But I've seen this painting in person. The contrast be-tween the costume and the man is real. Painted by celebrity portrait artist Ralph Wolfe Cowan, it is the only painting Elvis ever commissioned of himself. It and the very early portrait of Elvis (right) are, if I recall, the only two paintings of him that hang in the mansion itself. All the others, and there are dozens of them, are in a mini-gallery of costumes, musical instru-ments, record covers, and other memor-abilia out back.

In Tune, 2007, David Uhl (for Harley Davidson) 
Artists have a tendency to turn famous men (and women) into myths. In no case is this more prevalent than in the literally hundreds, perhaps even thousands of portraits of Elvis Aaron Presley in virtually every art medium known to man. Even forty years after his death, Harley Davidson artist, David Uhl, contributes to this myth. Elvis purchased Graceland, seen in Uhl's painting, In Tune (above), in 1957. He was twenty-two at the time. Uhl depicts him as an adolescent teenager with the mother of all pompadours. Even Ronald Reagan would be envious.

Too bad our Photoshopping artist is apparently not a painter;
he's done all his homework for a properly puzzling painting.
It would be safe to say that no entertainer has ever left a more indelible mark on music than Elvis Presley, having influenced such modern-day music icons as the Beatles, Prince, Michael Jackson, and virtually every other rock artist since the early 1960s. Even at that, the Photoshopped image of the King of Pop in adoration of the King of Rock, would seem to be pushing the credulity envelope. I've rounded up the source material for this travesty of rock 'n roll history. Whoever the digital artist might be, he could have at least have allowed Elvis to get out of his army fatigues and into some civilian clothes. Such art is likely going to confuse the hell out of music archaeologists a thousand years from now. As for Elvis's new face, I looked, but could not find the PhotoShopper's source. I found several possibilities (below) but each lacked the distinctive lighting of the digital image. Digital editing can work amazing effects but I've yet to see an instance where facial lighting could be convincingly altered to the extent seen here.

Compare these Elvis profiles to the one with Michael Jackson.
What happens when an art icon paints a rock icon? During the mid-20th century, a performer knew he or she had "arrived" when they found themselves the subject of an Andy Warhol portrait. Starting with Marilyn Monroe, later Jackie Kennedy, Mick Jagger, Mao Tse Tung, Jimmy Carter, Mohammed Ali, Ingrid Bergman, Elizabeth Taylor, Queen Elizabeth II, and at some point in time (probably around 1963), Elvis Presley. I even found one of Justin Bieber, apparently painted by Warhol posthumously (or post-humorously).

Elvis, 1963, Andy Warhol
In 1992, the American public voted on a matter of vital national importance: young Elvis or old Elvis? U.S. Postal Service, in an unprecedented move, allowed the public to select the artwork for an Elvis Presley commemorative stamp. The choice was between two equally superb, but thematically distinct portraits: a mature Elvis painted by John Berkey or a watercolor of a youthful Elvis by Mark Stutzman (below). Reactions the across the country, were boisterous and highly opinionated. Members of Congress debated the worthiness of Elvis as a stamp subject; newspaper editorials made lofty pronouncements, and presidential candidate, Bill Clinton, came out in support for the younger Elvis. America spoke, returning nearly 1.2 million ballots to the Postal Service. The choice was clear. More than 75 percent of voters preferred Stutzman's young Elvis painting. The stamp was dedicated at Graceland just a few minutes after midnight on January 8, 1993—Elvis’s 58th birthday. Even today, the Elvis stamp is still the most popular U.S. commemorative stamp ever issued by the Postal Service.

Not surprisingly, this stamp was printed and sold in enormous quantities. It's been estimated that over 120 million copies were put back and never used.
Elvis 24, Rob de Vries
When my wife and I trooped through Graceland about three years ago, we were but two of over 700,000 guests who now visit Graceland each year, making it the second most visited home in America, behind the White House. Even today, it would seem that almost that many artist con-tinue to paint portraits of "The King." They range from idealized, godlike figures such as that of Sara Lynn (below) to whole series of works tracing Elvis' life (and appearance) throughout the whole of his career (right). But perhaps no recent painting of Elvis is more touching than that of Ronnie McDowell (bottom) as he depicts a ten-year-old "boy from Tupelo" seeing his Reflections of a King.

In Memory of Elvis Presley, 2016, Sara Lynn. Elvis never
looked so good. Is it just me, or does this more resemble
Donnie Osmond?
Reflections of a King,  Ronnie McDowell

No comments:

Post a Comment