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John Ezell Collection


Scope and Contents

Administrative Information

Detailed Description

1/2" Scale Maquettes

1/4" Scale Maquettes

Framed Works, Shadowboxes and Lightboxes

Computer Renderings

Drawings, Paintings and Collages

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John Ezell Collection, 1960-2011 | MGHL Dowd Modern Graphic History Library

By Modern Graphic History Library staff

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Collection Overview

Title: John Ezell Collection, 1960-2011Add to your cart.View associated digital content.

ID: MGHL/mghl00023

Primary Creator: John Ezell (1933-)

Extent: 72.0 Linear Feet


Items are arranged in series based on art medium and in subseries alphabetically by production.

The contents of the collection are currently arranged as follows:

Series 1: 1/2" Scale Maquettes

Series 2: 1/4" Scale Maquettes

Series 3: Framed Work, Shadowboxes and Lightboxes

Series 4: Computer Renderings

Series 5: Drawings, Paintings and Collages

Date Acquired: 12/00/2012. More info below under Accruals.

Subjects: Models (clay, plaster, etc.), Theater, Theaters--Stage-setting and scenery

Languages: English

Scope and Contents of the Materials

This collection includes original artwork (paintings, collages, renderings and theatre maquettes) made by John Ezell dating between the 1960s and the present.

Collection Historical Note

John Ezell was born in St. Louis and spent much of his childhood peering at the scenery over the backstage fence of the Municipal Opera in Forest Park.  This strong attraction to the theatre led him to pursue a B.F.A. in Painting from Washington University in 1954 and an M.F.A. the Yale School of Drama in 1960.  His career began with a number of non-profit repertory theatres, Yale University Theatre, and public television and culminated with royal and state theatres in Europe and Asia, as well as several professorial appointments and New York on Broadway, designing the for George Abbott’s Broadway and the New York Shakespeare Festival’s Much Ado About Nothing and Love’s Labour’s Lost.

He designed for the Tony Award winning Crossroads Theatre and Cincinnati Playhouse, Roundabout in New York, the Shakespeare Theatre in Washington D.C., Shubert and Second City Theatres in Chicago, the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, the Indiana Repertory Theatre, the Asolo State Theatre in Sarasota, the Coconut Grove in Miami, the Old Globe in San Diego, the Arizona Repertory Theatre, the Cincinnati Ballet, the Clarence Brown Theatre in Knoxville, the Roger Stevens Theatre in Winston-Salem, the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, the Missouri Repertory Theatre, the Dallas Theatre Center, the Kansas City Lyric Opera, the Pacific Conservatory Theatre, the Blackstone, Hong Kong Repertory Theatre, Royal Danish Ballet in Copenhagen, Stockholm’s Riksteatern and Cullberg Ballet, Swedish State Television, CBS and PBS, the Williamstown Theatre Festival, the Berkshire Festival, the Great Lakes Theatre Festival and the International Theatre Olympics in Istanbul.

His work on The Dreamer received the award for American Experimental Television Art at the International Non-Commercial Television Festival in Milan.  He was the art director and designer of the Emmy Award winning production of The Playboy of the Western World, which received the Corporation for Public Broadcast Board of Directors’ Award for Excellence in prime time drama.  He received eleven Critics’ Circle Awards and was inducted into the College of Fellows of the American Theatre at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C..  He served as a consultant to Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, and for the design collection of the Federal Theatre Project at George Mason University.  His work was exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Crafts in New York, the Wright Hepburn Webster Gallery in New York, the Astor Gallery of Lincoln Center, the Yale University Art Gallery, the Milwaukee Art Museum, the Mandeville Center for the Arts in San Diego and the Prague Quadrennial International Exhibition of Contemporary Stage Design.

Mr. Ezell is a participant in an exchange of theatre artists with the Beijing Academy of Drama and the Art Theatre of the People’s Republic of China. In 1994, he adapted the charrette process, a system of artistic study utilized by the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris during the 19th century, into his theatrical design classes, inspiring numerous scenic design programs to change their curriculums as well. He was a professor and Head of Design at the University of Wisconsin in Madison from 1965 – 1986 and is currently the Hall Family Foundation Professor of Design at the University of Missouri in Kansas City. Mr. Ezell was recognized for his contributions to American Theatre on the 75th Anniversary of the founding of the Yale School of Drama, and was the recipient of Washington University's Distinguished Alumni Award in 2001. The retrospective exhibition Bold Strokes and Finesse; the Stage Designs of John Ezell, based upon his work, has been on show in museums and galleries across North America.

John Ezell’s designs are characterized by eclecticism, rigorous scholarship and respect for the intentions of the original text.  His methods are inspired by his mentors, Donald Oenslager and Frank Poole Bevan, as well as elements borrowed from the graphic arts industry.  His renderings and models incorporate a number of talents and media, including watercolor, gouache, collage, montage and composite photographic and electronic computer imagery.  John Ezell was one of the first American designers to use polystyrene and other thermoplastics extensively on stage.  He had an interest in experimental and unconventional materials.  His design for Oedipus Rex at the University of Wisconsin in 1972 was the first stage setting conceived and executed in polyurethane expandable foam; the International Theatre Institute in Brussels called in one of the ten most ‘significant American designs of the decade’.

John Ezell has had an immeasurable impact on the field of American scenic design.  He has spent his career designing for productions of the most significant and challenging work of major American dramatists, focusing on visual themes of regional character and meticulous idiosyncrasy. His students work for virtually every professional theatre and opera company in America.

Subject/Index Terms

Models (clay, plaster, etc.)
Theaters--Stage-setting and scenery

Administrative Information

Repository: MGHL Dowd Modern Graphic History Library

Accruals: There are no accurals.

Access Restrictions: There are no restrictions to access.

Use Restrictions:

Some restrictions, please contact the Modern Graphic History Library Curator at (314) 935-7741 or spec@wumail.wustl.edu.

Users of the collection must read and abide by the Rules for the use of Modern Graphic History Library materials.

Users of the collections who wish to use items from this collection, in whole or in part, in any form of publication (as defined in the form) must sign and submit to the Washington University Department of Special Collections a hard copy of the Notification of intent to publish Modern Graphic History Library materials form.

All publication not covered by fair use restricted to those who have permission of the copyright holder.

Acquisition Method: The collection was donated to the Modern Graphic History Library by John Ezell in December 2012.

Preferred Citation: John Ezell Collection, Washington University Libraries, Modern Graphic History Library, Department of Special Collections

Processing Information: The collection was processed by Fisher Ream in July 2015.

Finding Aid Revision History: This finding aid was entered ino Archon by Fisher Ream in July 2015.

Box and Folder Listing

Browse by Series:

[Series 1: 1/2" Scale Maquettes],
[Series 2: 1/4" Scale Maquettes],
[Series 3: Framed Works, Shadowboxes and Lightboxes],
[Series 4: Computer Renderings],
[Series 5: Drawings, Paintings and Collages],

Series 1: 1/2" Scale MaquettesAdd to your cart.
Item 1: The Home of the Mundy Family outside the Village of Balbea, County Donegal, 1936, Dancing at Lughnasa, 1993-4Add to your cart.View associated digital content.
Maquette. Dancing at Lughnasa by Brian Friel, directed by Edward Stern, The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis and The Cincinnati Playhouse, 1993-4.
Item 2: Dr Stockman's Sitting Room, the Editor's Room of the "People's Messenger," and a Room in Captain Horster's House in a Provincial Norwegian Town, An Enemy of the People, 2003Add to your cart.View associated digital content.
Maquette. An Enemy of the People by Henrik Ibsen, directed by Gerald Freedman, Williamstown Theatre Festival, 2003.
Item 3: A Mound of Earth in a Parched Landscape, Happy Days, 2006Add to your cart.View associated digital content.
Maquette. Happy Days by Samuel Beckett, directed by Gerald Freedman, The 4th International Theatre Olympics, Istanbul, Turkey, 2006.
Item 4: Macbeth, 1986Add to your cart.View associated digital content.
Maquette. Macbeth by William Shakespeare, directed by Gerald Freedman, Great Lakes Theater Festival, 1986.
Item 5: Macbetto, 1966Add to your cart.View associated digital content.
Maquette. Macbetto by Giuseppe Verdi, directed by Ronald Mitchell, University of Wisconsin, 1966.
Item 6: Act II Scene 3: The Theatre Royale Music Hall, 1892, the Cloisterham Cathedral Cemetery, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, 2004Add to your cart.View associated digital content.
Maquette. The Mystery of Edwin Drood by Rupert Holmes, adapted from the novel by Charles Dickens, directed by Victoria Bussert, choreography by Janet Watson, The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, 2004.
Item 7: Before the Palace of King Oedipus at Thebes, Oedipus, 1969Add to your cart.View associated digital content.
Oedipus Rex by Igor Stravinsky and Jean Cocteau, based on the play by Sophocles, directed by Ronald Mitchell, The University of Wisconsin, 1969.
Item 8: The Show Off, 1982-4Add to your cart.View associated digital content.
Maquette.  The Show Off by George Kelly, directed by Thomas Guenewald, Asolo State Theatre, directed by Richard Hamburger, Great Lakes Theater Festival, 1982-4
Item 9: The Three Musketeers, 1996Add to your cart.View associated digital content.
Maquette. The Three Musketeers by Alexander Dumas, directed by Edward Stern, The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, 1996.
Item 10: [Title of Show], 2010Add to your cart.View associated digital content.
Maquette. [Title of Show], music and lyrics by Jeff Bowen, book by Hunter Bell, directed by David Ira Goldstein, choreographed by Patricia Wilcox, Arizona Theatre Company, 2010.

Browse by Series:

[Series 1: 1/2" Scale Maquettes],
[Series 2: 1/4" Scale Maquettes],
[Series 3: Framed Works, Shadowboxes and Lightboxes],
[Series 4: Computer Renderings],
[Series 5: Drawings, Paintings and Collages],

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