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 Mary Robinson Blair  (1911 - 1978)

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Lived/Active: New York/California/Oklahoma      Known for: landscape, mural and figure painting, illustration

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Ad Code: 3
Mary Robinson Blair
from Auction House Records.
Mary Blair It's A Small World Painting Original Art
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Mary Robinson Blair (1911-1978)

A painter and illustrator, Mary Blair became known for her design contributions to Walt Disney enterprises as well as for paintings of stylized children and scenes from Central and South America.

She was born in McAlester, Oklahoma and moved to California at age seven. She graduated from San Jose State College and then studied art at the Chouinard School and with Pruett Carter and Lawrence Murphy.  From the 1930s, she worked in Los Angeles as a designer for animated films, primarily for Walt Disney Studios.  She also created tile murals for Disneyland and designed several rides there including It's A Small World.  This ride and theme were a response to Disney's commitment to participate in the 1964 World's Fair in New York City with four projects.  This one was tied to a Pepsi-Cola contract to do something with a theme of "It's a Small World" to benefit UNICEF, the United Nations agency to benefit children.  Marc Davis designed the animation for the boat ride, and Mary Blair designed and provided the settings.  A pair of brothers, Richard and Robert Sherman created the song with the directive from Walt Disney to write something universal "that can be sung in any language, with any type of instrumentation, simultaneously." (Thomas, 310). 

For Disney World in Florida, Blair also designed the giant mural in the Contemporary Hotel.  During that time, she also painted watercolors of Regional subjects.

By 1940, she had married Lee Blair and the couple had moved to New York City where she had a very successful business as illustrator of children's books, designer of magazine covers, and stage sets for theaters.

Edan Hughes, Artists in California
Gordon McClelland and Jay Last, California Watercolors 1850-1970
Bob Thomas, Walt Disney

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following is from Kenneth Friedenrich:

I knew the Blairs, Lee and Mary, from 1960-1968 because of a friendship early in the decade with their oldest son.  I was present for much of her work on "It's a Small World" at the 1964 World's Fair.  We sailed together on occasion.  As I was the sole person who noodled on their piano, they gave it to me when they left their rather architecturally advanced home in Kings Point, New York.

Mary was quiet, intense, and witty; I have some recollections of the time we spent; her own work occupied her in an upstairs studio that was an extension of her sleeping quarters.

The quality and character of her work always struck me as foreign to her living in New York; perhaps it goes without saying that she never quite left the experience of the West.

Biography from California Watercolor:
Mary Robinson Blair (1911-1979) Born: McAllister, Oklahoma; Studied: San Jose State College (California), Chouinard Art Institute (Los Angeles); Member: California Water Color Society. Mary Blair came to California when she was seven years old. She attended college in San Jose and then art school in Los Angeles, where she took instruction from Pruett Carter.

Throughout the 1930s, she painted and exhibited watercolors depicting Regional subjects and worked full time as a color stylist and designer for the Walt Disney Studios. She also produced tile murals for Disneyland and Disney World and designed several of their rides.

After World War II, she and her husband, Lee Blair, settled in New York where she developed a highly successful commercial art business producing magazine covers, children’s book illustrations and theatrical stage settings.

Biographical information:
Interview with Lee Blair, 1983.

Biography courtesy of California Watercolors 1850-1970,
©2002 Hillcrest Press, Inc.

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