Glenn enjoys collecting amazing vintage items as a fun and educational way to relive the joys of the past.
Artist Thornton Utz Enjoyed a Multi-Faceted Career
Thornton Utz enjoyed a multi-faceted career in which he pursued his various artistic talents: illustrator, portraitist, fine art painter, and in the 1970s and 1980s, as a collector plate artist.
Utz did the cover artwork for over fifty issues of the Saturday Evening Post during the magazine's golden era, and he contributed illustrations to almost all major American magazines. Then he began to pursue portraiture of both children and adults, winning commissions from noted figures, including royalty, all over the world. Utz painted the late Princess Grace of Monaco, the family of former President Jimmy Carter, Astronaut Alan Shepard and Humorist Erma Bombeck, among others. He also has created scores of wonderful portraits of children for their adoring parents and grandparents. These superb paintings command $5,000 and up.
The Life of Thornton Utz In the Early 1980s in Sarasota, Florida
In the early 1980s, Thornton Utz would get up before 5:00 AM work in his studio until breakfast when he would be joined by his wife Maud and the youngest of his six children, Dawn, and Scott. At his easel until lunch, he would make the short walk to his home, take a nap, then continues painting until 5:30 PM or 6:00 PM. During the day the tall gray-haired artist spent much of his time on portraits of both young and old. Famous for his painting of some of the world's most famous people. Utz was most at ease painting children—in particular, little girls. At this time Utz and his family lived in a home designed and built by the artist himself in Siesta Key, Sarasota, Florida.
"A Gift of Love" and Its Creator
Ever since his first collector plate series debuted in 1979 with the charming "A Friend in the Sky" issue, Thornton Utz has hoped for the opportunity to create and introduce a limited edition plate tribute to mothers and Mother's Day. With "A Gift of Love," Utz's wish came true: this plate represents the first time that Thornton Utz has introduced a limited edition on a Mother's Day theme. But what could be more natural for a portraitist who has pleased millions over the last few decades from the 1950s to the 1980s with his heartwarming glimpses of children and family life?
A Glimpse at a Young Mother's Love
A sentimental favorite for Utz and his family is the "A Gift to Love" plate—a glimpse at a young mother who enjoys a tender moment with her two young offspring. This fine porcelain, 24K gold-rimmed plate is an exclusive offering of The Hamilton Collection. It measures 8 1/2 in diameter and was issued in an edition limited to the exact number ordered by Mother's Day, 1983.
Utz Is Famed for His Popular Limited-Edition Collector Plates
Thornton Utz first rose to prominence as an illustrator for many of America's most respected publications. He did the artwork for over fifty issues of the Saturday Evening Post covers, and his works have adorned the pages of McCall's, Ladies' Home Journal and scores of other top magazines of the 1950s through the 1980s. In addition to illustration and portraiture, Utz is famed for his popular limited-edition collector plates. Utz has introduced a series of girl—subject plates and a second series of boy subjects—as well as an annual child subject collection.
A Porcelain Work of Art of Stunning Beauty
Thornton Utz canvas is actually a piece of board which he treats with many carefully - applied layers of gesso. Then over a period of days or weeks, the "original Utz" will emerge; a painting that captures the spirit and beauty of each individual character, while describing their relationship with great sensitivity. Utz works with The Hamilton Collection to make sure his subtle coloration is retained for the porcelain medium. And in turn, The Hamilton Collection insists on the purest, whitest, most translucent porcelain available so that no distortions of tone may interfere with the art presentation. The result is a porcelain work of art of stunning beauty, unsurpassed realism, and lasting quality.
Utz captures A Moment of Freedom on a Sun-swept Fall Day
A moment of freedom on a sun-swept fall day, and the little boy in Thornton Utz's "Autumn Wanderer" painting contemplates his options for fun. A run through the waist-high wheat, then a stroll to the barn where liquid-eyed cows and fresh-curried horses await his company! His dark eyes glow with excitement and joy at the simple pleasures of the day. He seems determined to make the most of the crisp autumn air.
The plate in the photo below is "Butterfly Magic;" it caused quite a stir in Naples, Florida, where the original painting was on display. Many people contacted the Thornton Utz claiming that they themselves resembled the little girl in the painting when they were younger. It seems her expression is one that many people related to, and, one that keeps the eyes of the viewer literally glued to the canvas—a child Mona Lisa.
"Butterfly Magic" Is an Extraordinary Masterpiece
"Butterfly Magic" is an extraordinary masterpiece, transferred to translucent, smooth, flawless Viletta china. The child has character—a quality not often seen in child portraits—reflected in an innocent yet ageless expression. She perceives the butterfly and examines it with questioning eyes. Her reactions a delightful mixture of wonderment and awe.
His Characteristic Sensitive Style to Produce a Winning Plate
The wonder in a little girl's eye as she beholds a butterfly ... it is something precious and fleeting! And Thornton Utz captured such innocent childhood emotion better than any other American painter of his day. He had true empathy for his dear little subjects, and they immediate warm to him, providing models of startling freshness and naturalness. "Butterfly Magic" was one such fresh creation, combining the genius of Utz with the charm of an adorable little girl. Warm expressive colors combine with Utz's characteristic sensitive style to produce a winning plate—one which collectors have wanted to display and treasure form many years now.
Utz Created a Shadowy, Dreamlike Background in "Butterfly Magic"
In "Butterfly Magic" the trees behind the subject create a shadowy, dreamlike background to showcase this fleeting moment—an incident come and gone with the flutter of butterfly wings, preserved by the brush of Thornton Utz for future generations.
He Illustrated for American Magazines and Many European Ones
Born in Memphis, Tennessee, Thornton Utz studied at the American Academy of Arts in Chicago and taught at the Art Institute before moving to Westport, Connecticut in 1946 after a number of years as a commercial artist in the windy city. In the east, Utz illustrated for most American magazines and many European ones. His credits include 50 commissions for Saturday Evening Post covers - an honor he shares with fellow collector plate artist the late Norman Rockwell. Eventually, Utz moved into the fine arts as did many of his contemporaries who had begun a career in art curing the Depression when commercial meant poverty and fine art was out of the question.
Utz Asked Questions to His Subjects When Deciding How To Paint Them
Thornton Utz asks questions about his subjects before deciding how to paint them, and, finds that this helps for a more meaningful "end result." A good example is his portrait of Princess Grace of Monaco. Utz found that one of the things the princess likes to do best is walk, so he portrayed her serene highness walking in a wintry setting around her place—a painting that greatly pleased the princess.
He Preferred to Work From Photographs of His Models
The manner in which distinguished portraitist Thornton Utz approaches his subjects accounts for a large measure of his success. The artist preferred to work from photographs of his models, capturing different expressions from many angles. He used a 35mm camera for still photos and also used a video camera to watch his subjects in action, "doing everything they do normally." He would find each has "his or her own quirks, habits, pleasures, and delights—all the things that make us individuals!"
He Began Painting Children Only in His Last Years
Amazingly enough, Thornton Utz began painting children only in his last years. One day many years ago while judging an art show, a man approached the artist with a request to do portraits of his grandchildren. Utz politely refused. He did not want to paint traditional cherubic children "with folded hands." But the man persisted, and, finally persuaded the artist to photograph his children "any way you like." these last four words did the trick. Thornton Utz took pictures upon pictures of these little ones. A girl with her back turned, enjoying an ocean breeze and other in natural, "real life" activities. He finally finished the project after painting 14 portraits and discovering that he very much enjoyed child subjects. Thornton Utz painted children ever since.
Glenn Waters (author) on August 06, 2015:
I agree with you "A Friend in the Sky" is a very beautiful plate. It think Thornton Utz was a very talented, and gifted artist, his colors are so soft and touching. The way he uses soft lighting, and moving colors in "A Friend in the Sky" is so amazing :)
Thank you for your comment :)
PaigSr from State of Confusion on August 06, 2015:
I am not a big collector of plates. I have had four in my collection. Three Star Trek plates. And one of a tiger that was passed on to my daughter. Of the ones you are sharing my favorite is "A Friend in the Sky".