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 Laurence Hollings  (1914 - 1998)

About: Laurence Hollings


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Lived/Active: California/Arizona / South Africa      Known for: painting, sculpture, set design, commercial art

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:

The youngest of five children born in South Africa as the son of a British soldier and a Dutch-French housewife who'd met after the Boer War, the family came to Salt Lake City after the parents had joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Hollings' father was an amateur painter and he himself always knew he could draw.

He was nine years old when his parents divorced and four years later his mother moved to San Francisco with her children.  Not much interested in school, he found jobs, combining his interest in painting and illustration with physical aspects such as carpentry, stage design and sculpting.  He made displays for department store windows, worked on sets at the San Francisco Opera House and finished the display of a stuffed gorilla for the California Academy of Science, which led to his working in Hollywood on the first "King Kong". 

Subsequently, he spent c. 2 years as a Mormon missionary in Minnesota and upon his return to San Francisco, he worked with Frank von Sloun and Maynard Dixon, who were preparing for the 1938 World Fair.  He also continued working for the California Academy of Science on large dioramas for the natural science displays.  His photographic work yielded another invitation to Hollywood where he found employment with Disney Studios and worked on Fantasia, among other pictures.  He then worked for Columbia Studios, including as an art director at Old Tucson, Arizona, making Westerns.

Hollings met his future wife in San Francisco in church and theirs was a lasting marriage until he passed on.

He was a camouflage artist in World War II and served in Guam.  Returning to San Francisco, he continued doing stage work, movie sets and window displays and then designed amusement park rides, most notably the western themed Frontier Village which operated in San Jose from the early 1960s to 1980.  He designed the Cave Train ride for the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, the Danny the Dragon ride at Happy Hollow in San Jose, a jungle boat ride for an amusement park in Hartford, Connecticut, and  the fiberglass elephant face for elephant trains in amusement parks worldwide, among others.  He also painted a mural for the Sir Francis Drake Hotel in San Francisco.

Hollings died in 1998 and is buried in Mesa, Arizona.

Sources include:
"Laurence Hollings' Universe Included A Happy Hollow Dragon And A Team Of Dancing Elephants". San Jose Mercury News (June 16, 1996)
"Kids' Park Survives Test Of Time". San Jose Mercury News (May 18, 1991)

Information provided by Dr. Arthur L. Jue

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in South Africa on Sept. 20, 1914.  At age three Hollings moved with his family to Utah and to San Francisco in 1929.  He remained a self-taught artist except for brief study at the local ASL under Maynard Dixon and Frank Van Sloun.  He assisted both of these artists on mural projects while working at the Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park preparing habitats and painting backgrounds.

After 1960 Hollings was a resident of San Jose, CA and a designer of theme parks and regional natural history museums.  He died in Mesa, AZ on Feb. 2, 1998.
Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"
Interview with the artist or his/her family; Social Security Death Index (1940-2002).
Nearly 20,000 biographies can be found in Artists in California 1786-1940 by Edan Hughes and is available for sale ($150). For a full book description and order information please click here.

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