The creation of a Hollywood backdrop, or “backings,” as they’re known in the industry, presents a paradoxical challenge: to craft a painting so artful that the viewer doesn’t notice it at all. Yet, of course, some of our most vivid cultural vistas — from The Wizard of Oz to North by Northwest to The Sound of Music (pictured) — were conjured on canvas from scratch. Their creators are paradoxes as well: artists whose best work you know at a glance but whose names you couldn’t possibly list. A few of the greats — George Gibson, Ben Carré, Duncan Alanson Spencer — have been collected, and honored, in a new volume, The Art of the Hollywood Backdrop. The book is a welcome reminder of how the movies managed to summon their most magical worlds from pigments and brushstrokes, long before the advent of CGI.
The Art of the Hollywood Backdrop will be published November 1.
*A version of this article appears in the October 31, 2016, issue of New York Magazine.