Painting scenes from the movies

Leanne Shapton’s watercolour paintings of scenes from black-and-white films are brought together in a new book, Sunday Night Movies, and form a meditation on the art of cinema

Leanne Shapton’s watercolour paintings of scenes from black-and-white films are brought together in a new book, Sunday Night Movies, and form a meditation on the art of cinema…

Moments from nearly 80 different films are glimpsed in Shapton’s paintings – from close-ups of actors and ‘two-shots’ of couples embracing or talking, to title sequences and end credits.

With no text to introduce the sequence, Shapton allows the reader to study the images and, in many cases, wonder what they may mean in the context of the film they depict.

The films Shapton has painted are listed at the back of the book but as the reader turns the pages the images float freely from their source.

Shapton’s skill with paint was evident in her previous book (the memoir, Swimming Studies, is filled with duotone illustrations), but here it’s the perfect medium for rendering fleeting moments into still images – the paint itself hints at the fluidity of film.

Some of the stand-out paintings for me are of the typography that renders the opening titles and credits to a handful of the films. Within these simple sketches of text on celluloid, Shapton manages to capture the excitement of cinema and the expectancy of the story about to unfold.

Drawn & Quarterly; $19.95. See drawnandquarterly.com and leanneshapton.com. Shapton has also posted on the project on the New Yorker.

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