|First Animation Art
|First Quality Art from the Animated Film!
|Celebrating our 38th year in
Cedar Rapids, Iowa!
|Please call or email to confirm availability when making your selection.
Our one of a kind art sells quickly and although we do our best to
keep our website up to date,
all art is subject to previous sale.
| THE COURVOISIER PROGRAM
Some of the most striking examples of animation art surviving today exist due to the forward thinking of art
dealer Guthrie Sayle Courvoisier. Courvoisier was the first person to build a mass market for original
artwork created by the Walt Disney Studios for use in their animated classics.
Quick to recognize the phenomenon developing around the merchandising of the films of Walt Disney, Guthrie
saw an opportunity for the Courvoisier Galleries to do for Snow White what Ingersoll watches had done for
Mickey Mouse. Throughout the early part of 1938 Courvoisier entered into dialogues with Walt Disney and
his brother Roy detailing his idea to market the production-art created for "Snow White and the Seven
Dwarfs" as original works of fine art. Guthrie believed that the artwork could be as successful as the film
itself, if properly marketed.
In 1938, Courvoisier agreed with the Disney brothers granting the Courvoisier Galleries the exclusive right to
market original Disney art starting with about 7,000 cels from "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs". Prices
varied from piece to piece but were test marketed from $5 to $35 on up to some cels at $75. In September
1938, cel paintings consigned through Courvoisier sold rapidly when exhibited at the Julien Levy Galleries in
New York City, the Leicester Galleries in London and the Charles Sessler Galleries in Philadelphia. Cels
sold at Sessler gallery became part of the collections at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Whitney's
Museum of Modern Art. The favorable outcome from these early gallery sales of
"Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" cels proved Courvoisier could establish a fine art market for Walt
Disney artwork. Three new types of animation artwork were introduced: key animation and inbetweeners
production drawings; master production watercolor backgrounds; and story sketches used during the
production of Disney films.
Besides "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs", art from "Ferdinand the Bull" (1938), "Brave Little Tailor"
(1938), "Wynken, Blynken and Nod" (1938), "Donald's Golf Game" (1938), "The Ugly Duckling" (1939),
"Donald's Penguin" (1939), "The Practical Pig" (1939), "The Beach Picnic" (1939) and "The Pointer"
(1939) was released for sale at this time. Even some of the multi plane oil paintings from Walt Disney's
second feature "Pinocchio" (1940) soon followed.
Initially the art was matted and prepared for sale within the Disney studio. In the late 1930's Disney
employed twenty people to prepare the animation art for the Courvoisier Galleries. This Cel Setup
Department was headed by Helen Nerbovig, one of the women from the Ink-and-Paint Department.
The cels were cut down in size or individual characters were trimmed from the cel and covered with a blank
cel sheet. The cel sheets were then taped to different kinds of backgrounds: hand-painted backgrounds that
resembled the production backgrounds, airbrushed backgrounds that merely suggested the elements of the
original background, mounted wood veneer backgrounds, often containing airbrushed shadows, elements of
the original backgrounds or the name of the particular character or backgrounds comprised of a piece of thin,
patterned wrapping paper.
These simplified background illustrations were then glued to cardboard. Each piece of art distributed through
Courvoisier came with a mat that often contained a handwritten inscription with the character's name or film
title running parallel under the mats lower left opening. A number of small labels were attached to the
backside of the frame identifying the art as being from a certain production. Some early labels also warned
the owner: "This material inflammable. Handle with care. Frame under glass."
From 1940 (after the release of artwork from "Pinocchio") until September 1946 Courvoisier assumed
responsibility for preparing the art for sale and remained the sole source for the sale of Disney artwork. They
continued to distribute art from numerous short subjects and feature films. On September 30th, 1946, both the
Disney's and Courvoisier agreed that Disney Productions would resume the marketing of their art.
In recent years, a business has purchased the name "Courvoisier Gallery" and has confused the animation art
market by marketing art with new Courvoisier labels descriptions. Animation collectors should be aware of
these. We only handle the art form the original art program than ended in 1946.