Blue Heron in flight

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Keye Luke

I recently purchased two beautiful prints out of an estate. Once again I knew nothing about the particular artist, in this case a man named Keye Luke. Upon inspection, what an interesting fellow he was!

This particular estate had a lot of material from the late Hollywood columnist Louella Parsons.

Parsons herself is quite a story, her rise in popularity a direct result of publicly praising the acting ability of William Randolph Hearst's mistress, Marion Davies.

The print above was a gift to Parsons's daughter, Harriet, often referred to as Baby Parsons in the movies she acted in.

"To my friend Harriet Parsons with felicity --- and ten thousand thanks," signed Keye Luke and bearing a Chinese pictogram.

The piece on the right was a gift to Louella with a much less florid greeting. Classical sylphs cavorting are always good...

So who is this wonderful artist Keye Luke, a man who seems to be channeling Aubrey Beardsley with his amazing prowess with ink and paper?

Besides being a marvelous artist, known for his fine pen and inks and prints, he was a very successful actor. The Chinese American is best known for playing Kato in the original Green Hornet, Number one son in Charley Chan and Master Po in Kung Fu. You remember, snatch
this pebble from my hand...

He was on Broadway in the Flower Drum Song and in the film Alice for Woodie Allen.

Born in Guangzhou in 1904 he grew up in Seattle. An artist, he eventually worked on the murals at Graumann's Chinese Theater and illustrated several books, a task that paved the way for his acting career.

A short film about Keye Luke's life and work premiered at the 2012 Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival.

I searched around the internet for more information but largely drew a blank, even my print dealer friend in Seattle had never heard of him. I found an obit and several interesting links like this one Chinese American Eyes, that allows us to see more of his artwork. Or this wonderful blogpost from Silver Scenes, the Art of Keye Luke.

Here Keye shows Loretta Young his illustration of her in The Farmers Daughter in 1947. The Oscarssite pertaining to Luke has some fantastic photographs.

Howard Berlin
I look forward to learning more about and seeing more work from this incredibly talented artist. I will be offering these two pieces for sale at the Blue Heron Gallery when I figure out how to fairly price them.


JudyNC said...

We have five prints including the one he gave to Louella...but we're not sure they are original. Can you tell me more about the paper quality of the print and other attributes?

Blue Heron said...

What do you mean by original print, Judy?