His evocative paintings have represented dozens of plays and musicals at Lincoln Center and elsewhere, and now James McMullan is stepping out from behind his canvas for two New York exhibits of his theatre-oriented illustrations.
McMullan’s images are indelible to patrons of Lincoln Center Theater in Manhattan: His Billy Bigelow mounted a pair of merry-go-round horses in colors and shading that suggested sex and emotional extremes for Carousel; his Regina ascended the steps with a heated deliberateness for The Little Foxes; his title character in The Heiress was pale, dead-eyed and expectant, pulling back a curtain to look out the window.
McMullan, who has been a theatre illustrator since the 1970s, is represented in the October publication of “The Theater Posters of James McMullan” (Penguin Studio, $35.95), a oversize, 144-page full-color document of his work and process.
Triton Gallery, a major New York City source for theatrical posters,will exhibit 15 original McMullan poster paintings (which are for sale) at a show Nov. 19-Jan. 1. The gallery, which has all of McMullan’s 14-by-22 inch window-card posters in stock, is located at 323 W. 45th St. between 8th and 9th Avenues. A booksigning and reception with McMullan will be 6 9 PM Nov. 19.
The paintings are small, Triton Gallery manager Paul Wylie told Playbill On-Line Nov. 16. Each illustration is approximately 5-by-10-inches, although they have sometimes been blown up to be the size of the side of a bus. Included in the Triton show are originals representing Lincoln Center’s The Heiress, Hello Again, Pride’s Crossing, Arcadia, A Delicate Balance, An American Daughter and more. For Triton Gallery information, call (212) 765-2472.
Another McMullan show at the Gallery of the Society of Illustrators in New York, featuring 36 of his works, will be seen Dec. 2-Jan. 9. The Society of Illustrators is at 128 E. 63rd St. Between Park and Lexington Avenues).
Call (212) 838-2560 for Society information.
In the introduction to the new book, playwright John Guare, whose Six Degrees of Separation and other works have been interpreted by McMullan writes, “McMullan draws the best (posters) in the business. They are fair, they are honest, they are inventive. They are beautiful. They are disturbing. McMullan illustrates plays at the highest intention their authors imagined; that is his gift.”
The book, with 225 color illustrations, explores McMullan’s creative process, including his use of actors as models and his discussions with directors and playwrights who provide metaphors, images and ideas about their take on the world of the play at hand.
-- By Kenneth Jones