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Peter Ellenshaw, whose artistic career spanned more than seven decades as a renowned landscape artist, motion picture art director, Academy Award® winning special effects artist and official Disney Legend passed away at his home in Santa Barbara, California, on Monday (2/12/07) at the age of 93. Considered the premier seascape and landscape artist in America today Ellenshaw’s original canvasses have graced the walls of numerous galleries around the world while his motion picture credits include some of the most beloved films of all time.

Commenting on Ellenshaw’s passing, Michael Young, president of Collectors Editions Fine Art Publishers said, “Peter Ellenshaw epitomized the role of gentleman painter in all regards.

Not only was his work visually breathtaking, whether created for galleries, private collections or for use in a motion picture, his art represents a true immersive experience for any admirer of the visual medium. Speaking on behalf of everyone at Collectors Editions we are saddened by his passing but are thankful for knowing him and the way he enriched our lives with his friendship and artistry.”

Ellenshaw was born in Great Britain in 1913. As a child, Ellenshaw wanted nothing to do but draw. He dropped out of school at age 14 and lived for six years "in Dickensian misery”, as he once described it, on the outskirts of London in Essex, copying Old Masters in watercolors while working as a mechanic during the day.

A neighbor, Walter Percy Day, O.B.E., a famous matte artist of his time, discovered Ellenshaw’s talent and took him on as an assistant. Mattes are realistic paintings done on glass, against which films of actors and other parts of the set are projected; then both painting and film are re-photographed to create a new, realistic image.

Day was associated with Alexander Korda, one of Europe’s leading film producers and founder of Deham Studios. While under apprenticeship with Day, Ellenshaw contributed his painting skills to such well-known British films as Things to Come, The Four Feathers, and The Thief of Baghdad.

Ellenshaw worked with Day until 1941, when he decided to join the Royal Air Force and become a flying instructor during World War II. During his training in the United States, Ellenshaw met and married his wife, Bobbie Palmer. Their son Harrison was born in 1945, followed by their daughter Lynda in 1958.

Practically Perfect Giclée on Canvas  18 x 36
Following the war, Ellenshaw moved back to Great Britain with his wife and son, briefly re-teaming with Day before striking out on his own in 1946 as a full-fledged matte artist. In 1947, his work caught the attention of an art director for the Disney Studios. Walt Disney was in the pre-planning stages of his very first live-action film, Treasure Island, which would be produced in Great Britain and the art director inquired if Ellenshaw would be interested in the project. Thus began a professional collaboration and friendship with Walt Disney that would span over 30 years and 34 films.

Ellenshaw regarded Walt Disney as a source of inspiration, a wonderful executive, and over the years, a good friend. "Walt had the ability to communicate with artists," recalls Ellenshaw. "He'd talk to you on your level - artist to artist. He used to say, 'I can't draw, Peter.' But he had the soul of an artist, and he had a wonderful way of transferring his enthusiasm to you."

Throughout the early 50s, more work followed on Disney’s British-themed films including The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men (1952), The Sword and the Rose (1953), and Rob Roy, the Highland Rogue (1954). In 1953 the Ellenshaws moved from Great Britain to the United States where Peter began working full-time for the Walt Disney Studios. Ellenshaw maintained his identity as a traditional landscape artist during his Disney years and always found time in the evenings and on the weekends to work on his own canvases.

One of Ellenshaw’s first Disney projects upon his arrival at the Studio was to create a conceptual rendering of something called “Disneyland.” Ellenshaw went to work painting an aerial view of the proposed park on a 4’ x 8’ piece of fiberboard. The painting was then used by Walt Disney to help introduce television audiences to his new project, while simultaneously using the painting to attract backers on this exciting new concept in outdoor entertainment. This priceless piece of Disney history was lost for many years and was eventually found in the early 1980s in a shed at the Walt Disney Studios. It was fully restored and now hangs proudly in The Disney Gallery at Disneyland in California.

In 1954, Ellenshaw lent his considerable talents to one of Walt Disney’s most ambitious live-action films, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. The film, starring Kirk Douglas and James Mason, featured impressive special effects and matte paintings, including a ferocious battle with a giant squid and wide vistas of the island of Vulcania. The film won an Academy Award® for Best Special Effects.

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