Happy (Belated) Birthday, Alfred Hitchcock

Master of suspense Alfred Hitchcock would have been 113 years old yesterday. His visual and emotional manipulations on screen have inspired artists, designers, filmmakers, and directors for years. His ominous reserve is often replicated never duplicated–as in Gus Van Sant’s 1998 shot-for-shot remake of Psycho that paid cinematic tribute to Hitchcock’s manner of storytelling and Vanity Fair’s Hitchcock-inspired Hollywood Portfolio in 2008 which captured the filmmaker’s sinister panache.

In 1979 Hitchcock received the American Film Institute’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Trustees recognized the vanguard filmmaker as having an artist’s eye:

He early became known for his visual innovations, relying on his earlier training in draftsmanship. Perhaps more important was his innate sense of composition. Hitchcock has come to use the screen in a very painterly fashion. Film is a visual art, but Hitchcock is the most visual of directors.

John Ferren, Untitled, 1933, Watercolor on paper

John Ferren, Untitled, 1933. Watercolor on paper; 8 x 6 1/4 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Acquired 1978.

Perhaps this is why Hitchcock got along well with artists like John Ferren, who served as artistic consultant for The Trouble with Harry (1955) and Vertigo (1958) for which he designed the unforgettable nightmare sequence. The Phillips has three watercolors by Ferren, completed by the artist in the early ’30s, just before he moved and settled in New York where he would later join and lead The Club, an informal group of artists who represented the social and intellectual center of abstract expressionism in the city.

Megan Clark, Manager of Center Initiatives