Wednesday, May 29, 2024

The Museum of Classic TV Paintings


What if there was a museum that displayed all of the paintings of classic TV characters that appeared in their respective shows? 


We wouldn’t need the Guggenheim for something like this – actually just one exhibit room would probably suffice – but how much fun would that be to visit? 


Whenever I watch a series or an episode featuring a painting of one of the stars, I think about the fact that someone actually had to take a blank canvas and create that painting. This is before the era when these things could be done with a few keystrokes on a computer. And in some cases the painting was only seen in a single episode – what became of it after that? Did the subject of the painting get to take it home? I know the answers to some of those questions but others remain a mystery – if anyone out there has more information about the ones that could not be traced, please let me know.


For now, here’s a sampling of what would be on the tour at the Museum of Classic TV Paintings. 


The Dark Shadows Wing

This is the only series for which a separate gallery may be needed. Paintings were not only prominently featured throughout the run of this groundbreaking gothic soap opera, they were integral to several storylines.


While many non-fans believe the series began embracing the supernatural with the introduction of vampire Barnabas Collins (Jonathan Frid), it actually began in the very first episodes, with the portrait of Josette du Pres (Kathryn Leigh Scott), whose ghost was active in Collinsport, Maine long before Barnabas’s arrival. His portrait was unveiled in Collinwood weeks before he showed up, claiming to be a descendant of the man in the picture. 



There was also a painting of Angelique (Lara Parker), the witch spurned by Barnabas who exacted her revenge by cursing him to become a vampire. Where are they now? Thankfully I have some inside information on this thanks to Kathryn Leigh Scott, who has been a friend for decades and, when she ran Pomegranate Press, published my Charlie’s Angels Casebook (written with Angels expert Jack Condon). 



“I believe the portrait of Jonathan is at Lyndhurst,” she told me – Lyndhurst being the New York mansion that was shown on the series as the exterior of Collinwood. Fan gatherings are still held there from time to time, so here’s a chance to see that iconic painting in person. “Lara had her portrait,” Kathryn revealed, but “the portrait of Josette has vanished (thank Heaven!)” True, it never really looked like Kathryn, but in fairness to the artist it was painted before she joined the series. 



Charlie’s Angels

Speaking of Charlie’s Angels…in “Rosemary for Remembrance,” the Angels are hired to protect an aging, Prohibition-era gangster after two attempts are made on his life. Kris moves into his opulent mansion, where she discovers from a painting that she bears a remarkable resemblance to the man’s late wife.


Of course, no work of art could rival the beauty of Cheryl Ladd, but this was not a bad attempt. When I was researching the book I tired to find out what happened to the portrait and asked Cheryl if she knew, but that mystery is sill unsolved. Like many props from series of that era, it probably went home with one of the crew. 



The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet

In “The Boys’ Portraits” Rick meets a beautiful young artist in the park and after a short conversation she offers to paint him (things like this never happened to me). Ozzie and Harriet are so impressed they ask her to paint David as well. Where those paintings are now is almost as big a mystery as what Ozzie did for a living – however, the show was classy enough to include the artist's name - Constance Doyle - in the closing credits. I did a quick online search but was unable to find out if she went on to any noteworthy success.



A portrait of Jock Ewing (Jim Davis) on prominent display at Southfork was a source of both inspiration and intimidation for his son J.R. (Larry Hagman) over several seasons.


As is often the case, more than one painting was made in case something happened to the original. After the series ended one went to Davis’s widow. The best-remembered version, painted by artist Ro Kim, went to Hagman, until it was sold at an auction in 2011. The winning bid was nearly $40,000.


The Jimmy Stewart Show

The premise of this short-lived (but warm and pleasant) family situation comedy is that James K. Howard (James Stewart) is a teacher at Josiah Kessel College and a descendant of the man who founded it, whose portrait clearly shows a family resemblance. This is obviously the least successful series on this list, yet the painting itself is one of the largest and most detailed works created for a series. You can see it here in this promo video for the show’s DVD release.


Family Ties

The season two opening credits for this series show an artist’s hand painting over a drawing of the Keaton family, but that is the only time that portrait appears on the show. 



The Dukes of Hazzard

In “Heiress Daisy Duke,” a millionaire believes that Daisy (Catherine Bach) may be his long-lost granddaughter Vivian, seeing how closely she resembles Vivian’s portrait; when Boss Hogg finds out he sees a chance to make a fortune. This is the only painting on the list that I’ve actually seen in person. When I interviewed Catherine Bach at her Encino home, the painting of Catherine/Vivian was on display in the entryway. 



The Ghost and Mrs. Muir

The large and imposing portrait of Captain Gregg (Edward Mulhare) became slightly less intimidating once the ghost of the man himself began making regular appearances to Carolyn Muir (Hope Lange) It’s a shame this wonderful series is not better remembered. 




I tend not to revisit the Dick Sargent years on this series very often, but “Mona Sammy” is a delightful episode in which, as usual, Endora puts Darrin in an impossible position. She tells the Tates that Darrin pained a portrait of Samantha that resembles the Mona Lisa. But the painting is actually of Sam’s great aunt, and was painted by Leonardo Da Vinci. 


Regardless, Louise insists that Darrin paint her portrait, which he is able to do with some magical help from Sam – and then Endora interferes once more, with very amusing results.


I don’t know where the paintings shown in this episode wound up, but I do know that Mario A.C. Della Casa, known to classic TV fans as the creator of beautiful reproduction Jeannie bottles, will also supply you with a hand-painted reproduction of “Mona Sammy.” Find out more here


The Dick Van Dyke Show

“October Eve” was an episode about a painting with that title, but one that is never shown to viewers (though according to Dick Van Dyke, some fans swear they saw it). The story has Laura posing for a painting meant to be a surprise gift for her husband – but she gets the surprise when the artist (Carl Reiner) paints her nude. Now you know why we never got to see it. 




  1. What a great post! Geez I love the one of Jock Ewing, and Captain Gregg's portrait did frighten me a little when I was a kid. But David, you made me snort my iced tea when you reminded me of Samantha's goofed up painting! This post was worth a reread, at first I thought you'd forgotten artwork from shows like Night Gallery or when Arte Johnson painted a nude woman on the Partridge Family garage. 🙂

    1. Good catch on Night Gallery - I guess we would need more exhibit space for all of those ominous paintings!

  2. Wow, you overlooked a very obvious example---Good Times! Ernie Barnes' paintings (attributed on the series to the J.J. character) not only appear throughout the show's run, they were also seen in the opening and closing credits. As Florida would say, "Damn! Damn! Damn!".

    1. You're right, James - I tend to do pieces like this just from memory and not with any research, and as I explained in an earlier piece I don't own or re-watch the Norman Lear shows, so that reference was not recalled in time.

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  4. MASH had several paintings painted by "Col. Potter" of most of the characters, at least those that Potter knew. I hope someone still has them.

  5. I thought that painting of Cheryl Ladd was Ronnie Claire Edwards.
    I always liked that Family Ties opening with the painting. It actually was an incredible likeness of the cast.
    I've always been fascinated with the paintings that appear in shows as well. In the made-for-TV movie "An American Christmas Carol" starring Henry Winkler, there are a number of paintings that appear with renderings of various characters in the movie over a period of years and they are all clearly painted by the same artist.