ARTIST, Educator & Author

The Art of the

Hollywood Backdrop


In almost every feature film of Hollywood’s golden age, painted backings have convinced moviegoers that what they are seeing—whether the fantastic roads of Oz, the presidents of Mount Rushmore, or ancient Egyptian kingdoms—is absolutely real. The Art of the Hollywood Backdrop reveals the hidden world and creators of these masterpieces, long-guarded as a studio special effect.

The Art of the Hollywood Backdrop

Great Article by Hyperallergic

Thank you Hyperallergic for the great article! "When backdrop painters were successful at their jobs, the filmgoing audience didn’t notice their work at all. From the 1930s, up to the emergence of CGI and higher quality photography, painted backings were an essential part of the cinema industry. However, the artists were barely credited, no matter how important their transformation of reality was to a film — whether a colossal painting that transported the viewer to an exotic locale or a fantastic mural for an entirely fictional realm. ..." Read the whole article here.

Made it to the LA Times Gift List!

The Art of the Hollywood Backdrop made it to the LA Times Gift List!!!  "Once upon a time, gifted but unsung artists meticulously painted large scale scenic backdrops for Hollywood films ranging from "The Wizard of Oz" to "North By Northwest." This gorgeously illustrated and authoritative book by Richard M. Isackes and Karen L. Maness tells the full story of what is sadly becoming a lost art." Read the whole article here.  

Sharing With The Austin Film Society

I'm so excited to share my research on The Art of the Hollywood Backdrop with the Austin Film Society on Nov. 30, 2016 7-9pm. Live event, presentation, 70 minAustin Film SocietyWednesday, November 30th, 20167:00 PM "Long guarded as a studio special effect secret and often not recognized as paintings by the average moviegoer, scenic backings have played an important role in the art of the cinema. Karen L. Maness’ new book THE ART OF THE HOLLYWOOD BACKDROP reveals, for the first time, the creators and hidden world of these unacknowledged masterpieces. The author will join us at the AFS Screening Room for a free live lecture and presentation of some of her research materials, photos and clips discovered during the development of the book and her four year collaboration with the Art Directors Guild. ..." To read the whole event article, please go to the AFS website.

L.A. TIMES Book review

How exciting to have my book released and then have an article written about it in the Times(.com)!!!! What a way to kick off a book release! See the full article here: These Painted Backdrops Brought Life to Classic Hollywood Scenes Here's an excerpt: " To jaded movie goers of a certain age, Hollywood backdrops induced eye rolls and snickers. As painted scenery rolled by outside a moving car or an eerily still vista floated behind an actor, viewers in the know might applaud themselves for seeing the backdrops for what they really were: a two-dimensional world, an optical illusion, proof of a bygone era’s artifice, a reminder on billboard scale that these scenes of the great outdoors were really shot in studios. But as the golden age of Hollywood grows more distant, it’s easier to appreciate the best of these backdrops for the works of art that they really were. In their new book The Art of the Hollywood Backdrop, Richard M. Isackes and Karen L. Maness celebrate the masterpieces that brought whimsy and gravity to epic films, from the fanciful settings in The Wizard of Oz to the spooky majesty of North By Northwest."


News & Events


News, Events and Glimpses 'Behind the Scenes'


Scenic Art


Fine Art


twitter icon
facebook icon
LinkedIn Icon
Instagram icon

See Karen In Person


Rust Red Studio

Opening it's doors to the public for the East Austin Studio Tour: November 12-13 & 19-20,  11am - 6pm


See Photos of My Studio!

More About the East Austin Studio Tour


Website Design by Kate Spears

linkedin icon
instagram icon
twitter icon
facebook icon

Connect With Karen!


Label Text:

Thank You!

The form has been successfully sent.

Label Text:

Newsletter Signup

Contact Karen 


Please use the contact form on the contact page to get in touch with Karen about pricing, questions or comments you might have. Thanks for visiting!

Karen Maness

© Karen Maness 2016