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Tony Curtis, celebrity art hobbyist

September 30, 2010 |  4:03 pm

Curtis In Hollywood, celebrities who like to spend their free time indulging in the visual arts are so commonplace that they've become a cliché. Stars from Sylvester Stallone to Phyllis Diller to the late Dennis Hopper carved out oft-dubious side careers as artists, much to the delight of their fans and much to the consternation of serious art lovers.

Tony Curtis, who passed away Thursday at 85, was among the more passionate and prolific of Tinseltown's weekend artists. "I'd like to be known as an artist who acts rather than an actor who paints," he once said. Actress Jamie Lee Curtis issued a statement Thursday saying that her father "leaves behind a legacy of great performances in movies and in his paintings and assemblages."

Some people may think it strange to place Curtis' art dabblings on the same level as his film work in "Some Like It Hot" and "The Defiant Ones." But then again, Curtis wasn't strictly a dabbler. The actor devoted decades to his love of art and continued to paint long after the plum movie roles stopped coming his way.

He clearly took his art his seriously. In a 1989 interview with The Times on the occassion of his artwork being shown at the Beverly Hilton, Curtis explained that "when I start painting, I have no idea what I'm going to do. The first color I use -- that tells me where the painting is going. It paints itself, and the painting tells me when it's finished. It's almost as if it does it for me."

It often looks silly for amateur artists to list grand masters as their influences, but that didn't stop Curtis. He told The Times that he had been most inspired by Picasso, Matisse and Balthus.

Curtis continued to show his creations at venues around the world. He also sold some his artwork online.

As Times art critic Christopher Knight recently noted, the current museum climate looks kindly on celebrity art exhibitions -- which means that Curtis' paintings and other artwork could one day show up at an exhibition near you.

Read the full Times obituary of Tony Curtis.

-- David Ng

Photo: Tony Curtis at his easel. Credit: Shaun Curry / AFP/Getty Images

Comments () | Archives (6)

'It often looks silly for amateur artists to list grand masters as their influences....'

Why is that silly, Mr. Ng? Just because an amateur may not live up to the talent of those grand masters doesn't mean that an amateur isn't influenced and inspired by them.

Proving that one man's art is another man's garage sale item.

Bernie Schwartz had a good life! Si Se Puede!!!

A true character..bigger than life, on screen and canvas. RIP.

So many an art aficionado looks to a Picasso or a Van Gogh or a Matisse and says “I can do that.” And many do. The difference is that Tony Curtis and others, including Frank Sinatra, acquired their fame in the entertainment field and used their public persona as the prop to promote their canvas creations. This is not new and not a bad thing. Is their work good? I guess it depends on the eye and taste of the beholder.

The modern art which these modern masters originated during the early 20th century has many admirers and some flatter them by copying their work or style. It just highlights the enormous talent and dedication that these pioneers of modern art, who endured ridicule and poverty during their early years, had in introducing the world to their vision of art as we now see it.

my mother lived to be a hundred and my Dad closed to 90....why is Tony Curtis so old and ugly, once he was such a handsome man....and such a compassion in the movies and yet would not give his daughter the time of day after his divorce...guys like him give us divorce fathers a dirty name....

guys like him will not be missed!


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