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
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.
Celebrating our 38th year in
Cedar Rapids, Iowa!
Wise Owl and Bluebirds production cels from
"
Bambi" (1942)  Ask for price & availability.
Dopey and critters original production cels  
from "
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs"
(1937) Ask for price and availability.
Village people heading to the Bullfighting "
Ferdinand the Bull"
(1938) Silly
Symphonies. Ask for price & availability.
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First Animation Art
First Quality Art from the Animated Film!
526 Bezdek Drive NW  ~ Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52405