MoMA to celebrate Tim Burton, the visual artist


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A master of the macabre, director Tim Burton has always straddled the line between mainstream Hollywood (‘Batman,’ ‘Planet of the Apes’) and idiosyncratic provocateur (‘Ed Wood,’ ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’) -- and sometimes within the same film (‘Edward Scissorhands,’ ‘Mars Attacks!’).

When not making movies, the corkscrew-haired auteur has carved out a side career as a graphic illustrator and artist for nonfilm (and highly personal) projects, giving his brush and pencil free license to translate his creepy imagination to paper. Many of these works have never been seen by the public, but starting in November, a career retrospective dedicated to Burton at New York’s Museum of Modern Art will give his legion of fans a chance to observe these creations in person.


Among the works on display will be Burton’s drawings, paintings, storyboards, digital and moving-image formats, puppets and maquettes, props, costumes, ephemera, sketchbooks and cartoons.

Not surprisingly, Burton’s more private artwork is cut from the same blood-stained cloth as his movies. Certainly not for the very young, his visual art features characters who are skeletal and spindly, grotesque and gross, scary and emotionally scarring.

The museum will also present screenings of most of Burton’s films, including his recent adaptation of the musical ‘Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.’

Like Clint Eastwood, Burton owes a lot of his success to the French, who have championed his work even as American audiences have typically blown hot and cold over the years. In his book on Burton, the Parisian critic Antoine de Baecque described him as one of the few major American directors who has been able to maintain his personal vision while working in the Hollywood system.

Click through to see a sample of works from the upcoming Tim Burton exhibition...

Untitled (Blue Girl with Skull). 1992–1999.

Blue Girl With Wine. c. 1997.

Untitled (Frankenweenie). 1982.

-- David Ng

Top photo: Untitled (Romeo and Juliet). 1981–84. All images courtesy of MoMA.