Bob Oberbeck

(1909 – 1988)

Born into a theatrical scenic artist’s family in Chicago, Bob Oberbeck began working at MGM in 1937. He was a mapmaker in George Gibson’s Marine unit during World War II. Artist Chris Coakley recalls, “Oberbeck was a layer technician, and he liked to get vibration going by [moving] back and forth between complementary [color] grounds.” Oberbeck was a master of using textured rollers to create foliage and convincing landscapes to transport audiences to distant locales. Closely examining his backdrops reveals the confident color and textural choices made by these artists to create the illusion of any environment.

In addition to MGM, Oberbeck worked at most of the major scenic studios in Hollywood. When large projects came into a studio’s paint shop, artists like Oberbeck were highly valued because of their talent and experience in the traditions of scenic painting while also being able to mentor the younger artists. Oberbeck painted for hundreds of films, including The Wizard of Oz (1939), and was the lead scenic artist for Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds (1963) and King Kong (1976). He also painted numerous backdrops and murals for Disney’s Epcot and Tokyo theme parks.

Bob Oberbeck painting at JC Backings

Bob Oberbeck painting at JC Backings

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