A watercolor scene featuring the facade of the Reform Club of England, an imposing classical revival building that opened in 1841 as a gentleman’s club. Elegantly dressed men in frock coats and top hats walk outside the building; two are in conversation on the sidewalk with a pair of ladies dressed in bonnets and bustles. Several men are riding away in and on top of a horse-drawn carriage labeled London Bridge Railway. A newsboy wears a sandwich-board sign reading “Daily Telegraph: Bank of England Robbed.”
This painting likely was a production design for the 1956 movie Around the World in Eighty Days, a blockbuster movie with a star-studded cast. The artist, Fred Harpman, was assistant art director for the film, his first job in the film industry. In January 2011, Harpman reminisced about working on this movie: “One job of the art department was to find locations that would look like the real thing, but were closer—and cheaper—than moving the whole production overseas.”
Around the World in Eighty Days is based on a Jules Verne novel set in Victorian England and opens at the Reform Club, where Phileas Fogg, played by David Niven, accepts a challenge from his fellow members that he could make a round-the-world trip in record time. Consistent with the attribution of this work as a production design for this film, it depicts a 19th-century scene at the Reform Club, though in a 1950s pictorial style. Indeed, the back of the illustration board bears the imprint of a Hollywood, California, art supply store, presumably where Harpman purchased it locally.
Fred Harpman had a long and successful career as an art director and production designer from 1956 to 1998. His film credits include Woody Allen’s Take the Money and Run (1969) and Deliverance (1972). He illustrated the scenes for the Planet of the Apes franchise, enjoying the challenge of inventing an alternate science fiction world with a city built by monkeys. He also worked on many television movies and series from the 1970s through the 1990s, including the Hallmark Hall of Fame and a 1995 television movie of Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire.
The Reform Club was founded as a gentleman’s club in 1836 by supporters of the Great Reform Act of 1832. The building shown in Harpman’s work was designed by Charles Barry and opened in 1841. The club’s membership included politically progressive Whig members of Parliament and the House of Lords, and it gradually developed into the headquarters for the Liberal Party. The Reform Club still operates today, as a social club with no political party affiliation. Its richly paneled wooden interiors were the backdrop of the exciting fencing scene in the 2002 James Bond movie Die Another Day.
Condition: Generally very good with the usual overall light toning and wear. Vintage oak frame very good, with the usual wear and shrinkage, possibly original to the work.
“Around the World in Eighty Days (1956).” Internet Movie Database. 1999-2011. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0048960/ (23 May 2011).
Barnette, George. “Johnson City free family movie night stars local filmmaker.” United Methodist Church, SWTX Conference Witness. Volume 157, Number 15. 14 January 2011. http://www.umcswtx.org/page696792 (23 May 2011).
“Fred Harpman.” Internet Movie Database. 1999-2011. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0364010/ (23 May 2011).
“Reform Club — a Social Club for Reformers.” Reform Club. 2011. http://www.reformclub.com/ (23 May 2011).