|Acquisition Number: 2019.16
Medium: Graphite on tracing paper
Size: 11 x 18 in.
Credit: Gift of Tula Corning in loving memory of Merv Corning
Didactic: A nationally renowned and awarded artist, Merv Corning is not only known for his exquisite football portraits and aviation paintings but this self-taught master represents a large body of work based upon his sensitive nature to the love of landscapes, architecture and still life. Corning recorded each scene with impeccable realism and sensitivity. His imagery artfully captured the ambiance of his subjects.
Mervin Allen Corning was born June 16th, 1926 in Santa Ana, California. While living in Santa Ana as a young boy, he worked as a sign painter where he learned the fundamentals of poster art and painting. After moving to San Francisco with his family, he would join the Merchant Marines at age 17 with forged documents and served throughout World War II. Drawing since childhood, he began a career as an illustrator for Kleer, a drug company chain. He would work his way around to various different companies as an art director and fashion artist in San Francisco and Los Angeles. In 1953, Corning’s artistic versatility led him to Studio Artist Inc., a professional group of artists providing service to advertising agencies and their clients.
While at Studio Artist, Leach International commissioned Corning to paint the Heritage of the Air series of WWI watercolors. This series of WWI planes and pilots were to be authentic in every detail. Corning would work with a historian a curator of the Air Force Archives to ensure the authenticity of markings and people. The first illustration was done in 1959 and the last in 1970. These paintings are important because, the photographs of the time were only of the planes stilling on the ground and blue prints. So Corning had to do many sketches and studies in preparation for this series. This series would be published and reproduced all over the world, in magazines to airports. In 1969, Corning retired from Studio Artist, and devoted his time exclusively to fine art painting and commissions.
The NFL contracted Corning in 1966 for watercolor illustration work, but their relationship would span 30 years, with Corning becoming the official National Football League Super Bowl artist in 1977. During his time with the NFL, Coring painted everything from portraits to action shots of the players. Corning would paint each Super bowl MVP, Pro Bowl watch, and individual teams would commission him to paint their “Hall of Fame” players. Corning captured the moments on the field, with the blood, sweat and mud caked on the players, along with looks of war between the players.
In 1973, Corning was approached to create some original lithographs. After taking print making classes at the Otis Institute in Los Angeles, Corning was able to use this new technique. Corning preferred working on Mylar rather than stone or metal, as nothing is drawn in reverse.
In September 2006, Merv Corning passed away. His work has been shown and collected worldwide: the Smithsonian, U.S. Air Force Museum and Archives, the National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C., the Royal Air Force Museum in England Peterson Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.