Hollywood, 1941, oil on board, 18 x 24 inches, signed and dated lower right, illegible writing verso
About the Painting
From a distance, Beckwith deftly captures the spectacle of a Hollywood premiere. But we have not been invited to the party. Our view is from the shadows of a less glamorous neighborhood with a shaggy, unkept palm tree and rundown buildings in the shadows. We look down through the darkness past a packed parking lot to the bright lights of two iconic Hollywood landmarks, the Pantages Theater and the Broadway Building. Completed in 1930, the Pantages was built as an exuberant Art Deco movie palace, while the Broadway Building housed an upscale department store which catered to entertainment industry elites who were less impacted by the Great Depression than the common man, since movies had become the mainstay of popular culture entertainment during the 1930s with large numbers of Americans looking to immerse themselves in Hollywood escapism. Here, in a rare Los Angeles urban image, Beckwith combines that Hollywood fantasy with the more sobering foreground images which could have been pulled from the L.A. Noire fiction of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. Even with the improvements in the economy by 1941, the common Angelino more likely inhabited this world than the glamour of the Pantages and Broadway buildings.
About the Artist
Walter C. Beckwith was born in Ohio. Prior to 1935, he was living in La Jolla, California, where he is listed in city directories as a landscape architect. By the early 1940s, Beckwith had moved to Los Angeles (Pasadena) where he is variously listed as an architect, draftsman and engineer. During the 1950s, Beckwith worked for the City of Pasadena. Little is known about Beckwith’s education or career in the arts, except that in 1954, he designed the Pasadena Founder’s Monument, which still stands today at the corner of Colorado and Orange Grove Boulevards.