As of this writing, a hand-painted film poster by John J. Lomasney for A French Scandal (1948) is up for auction as part of the LIFEbeat Summer Vacation Movie Poster Auction, which runs through September 10th at CharityBuzz.
This poster is part of what is called The Lomasney Collection, more than 800 hand-painted movie posters by John J. Lomasney spaning over 50 years of film history, called a “treasure trove of art” by the New York Post.
Lomasney worked briefly at the dawn of the golden age of cinema as a set painter for Warner Brothers and Paramount. But in 1936 he moved to Hawaii with his mother Mary and found work as a staff artist at the Royal Hawaiian Theater (not to be confused with the Kuhio Theaters — see comments).
It was common practice at the time for theaters to attract customers with studio “one sheets” displayed in glass cases at the front of the theater, but Royal Hawaiian eschewed the studio’s posters and hired Lomasney to hand-paint originals.
Using film stills as inspiration (& incorporating them into the creation), Lomaseny slowly and meticulously painted in gouache on 28 by 44 inch art board to produce one-of-a-kind movie posters. Rarely making more then four posters per film, he used his talent to paint “huge luminescent portraits” of film stars and integrated the billing requirements to sell movies to theater passersby.
His hand-made one-sheets varied greatly from one another, as shown in the multiple variations of Sophia Loren’s Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow — which also greatly varied from the studio produced sheets for the film.
A quiet man said to be obsessed with painting and films (he rarely talked about anything but movies and is said to have shushed others for talking while he painted), Lomasney, with his specific dress (always wearing a sport coat, shirt and his trademark bow tie) and signature-smoke (White Owl cigars), would likely be called Autistic today. Little else is really known about this studio-schooled painter taught to be anonymous and only two of his original signatures are known to exist.
Lomasney’s sad fade-out scene took place when, after 40 years of service, he left Royal Hawaiian taking not a single one of his paintings — just a paintbrush.
But the quiet anonymous man’s unique posters live on, speaking his love of movies.
The Lomasney Collection remained with the theater, eventually purchased by tennis legend John McEnroe and featured in his short-lived SoHo gallery. (The John McEnroe Gallery lasted just five years, showcasing young, unknown artists. In a June 25, 2008 interview with The Sydney Morning Herald on the subject of his love of art, McEnroe said this about his art gallery experience: “I thought I had been a champion at tennis so I could be a champion of the arts. But it was more difficult than I thought. I realised I was more of a collector at heart.”)
Now the rare one-of-a-kind pop art works by Lomasney are not only available to art collectors and film fans, but they have another purpose: To help raise funds for HIV/AIDS prevention programs targeted at America’s youth.
As long as the hand-painted movie art posters — and the movies themselves — are loved, I think Lomasney would be pleased.
You can view The Lomasney Collection anytime at LomasneyMovieArt.com.