Ray Harryhausen’s adventures in stop motion animation left generations of film-goers wide-eyed at the feats of artistry he brought to the big screen. More than half a century’s work is brought together in Ray Harryhausen: Titan of Cinema, a suitably epic blockbuster exhibition that brings together the biggest collection of the mythological master’s work to date. Presented in conjunction with the Ray and Diana Harryhausen Foundation, this major summer commemorates what would have been Harryhausen’s 100th birthday.
From the sword-fighting skeletons of the Sinbad films and Jason and the Argonauts to the dinosaurs of One Million Years B.C., Harryhausen’s painstakingly realised creations forged from his ‘Dynamation’ technique had a profound influence on film directors including Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and Tim Burton. Nick Park and Peter Lord, who created Wallace and Gromit for Aardman Animation, have also praised Harryhausen’s onscreen alchemy, which itself was influenced by seeing Willis O’Brien’s own stop motion work on the original 1933 film of King Kong. Like them, Harryhausen was every inch an artist.
“Ray Harryhausen was really influenced by visual art,” says Lauren Logan, the Scottish National Galleries’ curator of collection and research in modern and contemporary art. “Gustave Dore, who did the illustrations for the bible in the nineteenth century, was a big influence on his whole aesthetic.”
An extensive programme of screenings and workshops accompanying the exhibition will show off the eye-popping fantasmagoria of Harryhausen’s work to a new generation weaned on computer generated imagery.
“There’s something really believable about Harryhausen’s models,” says Logan. “They come alive onscreen.”
Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (Modern Two)
May 23-October 25
The List, March 2020