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Norton Gaston

Double-sided movie poster art originally exhibited around Long Beach, CA, in the '30s.

Gouache on board.


The below paintings were featured during the April 2012 TCM Classic Film Festival in LA,

and later sold at auction in June 2012 by Bonhams, the first (40 x 60 in.) bringing $1375.


From the Bonhams site (2012):

...During the height of the Great Depression, the Gaston brothers--Jerome, Norton and Edward--ran a commercial art business out of a studio located in the basement of the Fox Theater in Long Beach, CA. Using magazine images and black and white photographs of movie stars supplied by film studios such as Columbia and RKO, the brothers created large "show signs," primarily using gouache on board, that were larger or more vivid--or more closely tuned to what the individual theater was showing--than the film posters issued by the studio itself. Norton, a portraitist, painted the faces and bodies, while Jerome and Edward did the backgrounds, often including flashy, eye-catching lettering.

The Gastons produced artwork for $6-$40 per piece for theaters in and around the Long Beach, CA area, considered a good salary during the late 1920s and 1930s. Often, the brothers would retrieve the posters once the films finished their runs and recycle the materials to create new works on the backs of previously used panels, even detaching stars' faces from older works and adding them to newer images.

Years later, Jerome Gaston told his son Norton (named in memory of his uncle) that he had preserved a small selection of the family's works, only to lose them when a flash flood ravaged the garage where the panels were stored. After Jerome's passing in 1989, however, the younger Norton Gaston took inventory of the family home and discovered that his father had been wrong: a selection of over 50 examples of the Gaston brothers' artwork had in fact survived.

This collection has remained in the family to the present, and contains the following highlights: "My Man Godfrey," a large, original gouache on board featuring a profile of William Powell, c.1936 (est. $1,000-1,500); "Rafael Sabatini's Captain Blood," a large, original gouache on board, loosely based on the original poster artwork, c.1935 (est. $1,000-1,500); "Marlene Dietrich / Robert Donat in Knight Without Armor," a large, original gouache on board (est. $600-900); and lobby artwork for "Top Hat," a large, original gouache on board, featuring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers (est. $1,000-1,500). The collection also includes original artwork for personality posters of Joan Crawford, Cary Grant, Maurice Chevalier, Ronald Coleman and Warner Oland as Charlie Chan (estimates range from $300-600 each), among others.



See the first painting as exhibited at the TCM fest on the Fans page of this site.



The Best of Everything