Designing An Empire
The John Mollo Archive

11 Dec 2018, starting at 16:00 GMT .

Auction information

An Introduction by Louise Mollo

John was born to two artists. His mother, Ella, a portrait artist and his father, Eugene, a Russian émigré, met at the Royal Collage of art and married soon after. Eugene's first job was with the Ballet Russe as an artist; two of his designs are in the V& A Museum. However, with the birth of their first child, John, in 1931, he needed a steadier career than that of a struggling painter and spent the rest of the decade creating innovative designs for the new cinemas now springing up all over the country. With the outbreak of war he was given a commission with the Camouflage Corps based in Farnham Castle.

At home, and now with three sons, he spent much of his time making, painting and battling with lead soldiers, just as he had done with his own brothers in Russia before the Revolution swept their lives away. By the time John had left school he was something of an established authority on military history. Uniforms had become a part of his life and even when presented with a period with which he was unfamiliar it didn't take him long to iron out its mysteries. He fell in love with films at the age of six when he was taken to see Clive of India. He came away from the cinema vowing that he would spend his adult life making films just like it and, to prove that he could, the following day he sat down and made a detailed and coloured drawing of George II (entitled Gorge II) wearing a scarlet uniform with sash of the Garter and buckled shoes, standing next to a pump with water running onto cobbled paving. However, he would have to wait a little longer till his ambitions could be fulfilled.

After Charterhouse, a commission in the Light Infantry and Farnham Art School, he joined his father's firm but finally he got his chance when in 1965, whilst his brother Andrew was fully occupied on Dr. Zhivago, a call came for one of the family to go to the help of Woodfall's latest venture, The Charge of The Light Brigade. It was John who answered the call, leaving a job to which he never returned. The Charge was finally finished in 1967. The following year he worked on The Adventures of Gerard, Nicholas and Alexandra in 1970/71 and Kubrick 's great epic, Barry Lyndon two years later. He finally made the jump from Historical Advisor, where he did the work but never got the credit, to Costume Designer in 1975 on a small science fiction movie where "one of the chief characters was a dustbin" and the rest, as they say, is history.

As children the Mollo boys, as their father before them, loved the works of the French writer and illustrator of children's' history books, JOB, and if John could try to reproduce the spirit of JOB on a film he did. On Barry Lyndon he got his chance and later, of course, The Three Musketeers. He had a large library of books on painters and the artistry of Wright of Derby, John Singleton Copley, George Dawe, the German artist Caspar Friedrich and countless others figured in his work.

All films presented challenges, but King David was unique for there was no visual reference to the Israelites of the period at all. After the unfortunate episode of the golden calf in the desert all graven images had been strictly off limits with the result that the only known representation of a soldier was on a Hittite stele and without detail. However, one of John's favourite painters, James Tissot, had illustrated both Old and New Testaments – and with delight he turned to it for inspiration. John's drawings for the film were accepted without alteration except with one strict proviso. There were to be no men seen in the film wearing earrings. Tissot's men of the period had all worn earrings. The film was shot on location in Italy and the rushes from the first day's shooting were duly sent off to America. Neither then nor at any other time did anyone back at the studios notice that they were all wearing earrings and wore them throughout the film. I spent much of that summer on location and day after day I saw the actors in full costume from dawn to dusk, whether on the set or relaxing off it, utterly oblivious of what they had on and no one thinking it might be a little odd for a fighting man to be seen wearing earrings.

John was asked many times what inspired his work. It was a difficult question to answer and he was not given to hyperbole but living with him throughout his career I thought in the end that I did know. His skill undoubtedly lay in an ability to interpret faithfully what he saw in image to his finished work but over all I think he had a rare gift for truth. Every one of his characters, whether real or imaginary, was believable and not one, however weird and wonderful, looked as if they were wearing fancy dress.

Sale and image enquiries:
mollo@bonhams.com


lots

Hornblower: A large quantity of colour production photographs, ITV / Granada, 1998-2003, Qty

Hornblower: Two production made costumes, ITV / Granada, 1998-2003, 2

Hornblower: A production made costume and accessories, ITV / Granada, 1998-2003, Qty

Hornblower, Seasons 2 - 8: John Mollo's personal sketch book Notes & Sketches 10, a custom bound volume containing important and detailed concept sketches and costume designs for many of the characters from the highly successful ITV television series Hornblower; additionally the volume contains designs for numerous military uniform designs for books, commercials and additional projects Mollo worked on during this time frame, ITV / Granada, October 1999 - June 2010,

Revolution: A large selection of original hand-painted costume designs by John Mollo, Warner Bros., 1985, Qty

Revolution: A small selection of on-location photographs, Warner Bros., 1985, Qty

Revolution: A concise collection of original hand-painted costume designs by John Mollo, Warner Bros., 1985, Qty

Revolution: Three notebooks containing character and on-location photographs by John Mollo, Warner Bros., 1985, 3

Greystoke/ The Legend of Tarzan - Lord of the Apes, King David, & Revolution: John Mollo's personal sketch book Notes & Sketches 5, a custom bound volume containing important and detailed concept sketches and costume designs for many of the characters from Hugh Hudson's film Greystoke/Tarzan (1983), Bruce Beresford's 'King David' (1985), Hugh Hudson's 'Revolution' (1985); the volume also contains designs for principal characters and numerous military uniform designs for books, commercials and additional projects Mollo worked on during this time frame, October 1982 - December 1984,

Greystoke / The Legend Of Tarzan, Lord Of The Apes: A substantial collection of costume designs by John Mollo, Warner Bros., 1984, Qty

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Auction information

An Introduction by Louise Mollo

John was born to two artists. His mother, Ella, a portrait artist and his father, Eugene, a Russian émigré, met at the Royal Collage of art and married soon after. Eugene's first job was with the Ballet Russe as an artist; two of his designs are in the V& A Museum. However, with the birth of their first child, John, in 1931, he needed a steadier career than that of a struggling painter and spent the rest of the decade creating innovative designs for the new cinemas now springing up all over the country. With the outbreak of war he was given a commission with the Camouflage Corps based in Farnham Castle.

At home, and now with three sons, he spent much of his time making, painting and battling with lead soldiers, just as he had done with his own brothers in Russia before the Revolution swept their lives away. By the time John had left school he was something of an established authority on military history. Uniforms had become a part of his life and even when presented with a period with which he was unfamiliar it didn't take him long to iron out its mysteries. He fell in love with films at the age of six when he was taken to see Clive of India. He came away from the cinema vowing that he would spend his adult life making films just like it and, to prove that he could, the following day he sat down and made a detailed and coloured drawing of George II (entitled Gorge II) wearing a scarlet uniform with sash of the Garter and buckled shoes, standing next to a pump with water running onto cobbled paving. However, he would have to wait a little longer till his ambitions could be fulfilled.

After Charterhouse, a commission in the Light Infantry and Farnham Art School, he joined his father's firm but finally he got his chance when in 1965, whilst his brother Andrew was fully occupied on Dr. Zhivago, a call came for one of the family to go to the help of Woodfall's latest venture, The Charge of The Light Brigade. It was John who answered the call, leaving a job to which he never returned. The Charge was finally finished in 1967. The following year he worked on The Adventures of Gerard, Nicholas and Alexandra in 1970/71 and Kubrick 's great epic, Barry Lyndon two years later. He finally made the jump from Historical Advisor, where he did the work but never got the credit, to Costume Designer in 1975 on a small science fiction movie where "one of the chief characters was a dustbin" and the rest, as they say, is history.

As children the Mollo boys, as their father before them, loved the works of the French writer and illustrator of children's' history books, JOB, and if John could try to reproduce the spirit of JOB on a film he did. On Barry Lyndon he got his chance and later, of course, The Three Musketeers. He had a large library of books on painters and the artistry of Wright of Derby, John Singleton Copley, George Dawe, the German artist Caspar Friedrich and countless others figured in his work.

All films presented challenges, but King David was unique for there was no visual reference to the Israelites of the period at all. After the unfortunate episode of the golden calf in the desert all graven images had been strictly off limits with the result that the only known representation of a soldier was on a Hittite stele and without detail. However, one of John's favourite painters, James Tissot, had illustrated both Old and New Testaments – and with delight he turned to it for inspiration. John's drawings for the film were accepted without alteration except with one strict proviso. There were to be no men seen in the film wearing earrings. Tissot's men of the period had all worn earrings. The film was shot on location in Italy and the rushes from the first day's shooting were duly sent off to America. Neither then nor at any other time did anyone back at the studios notice that they were all wearing earrings and wore them throughout the film. I spent much of that summer on location and day after day I saw the actors in full costume from dawn to dusk, whether on the set or relaxing off it, utterly oblivious of what they had on and no one thinking it might be a little odd for a fighting man to be seen wearing earrings.

John was asked many times what inspired his work. It was a difficult question to answer and he was not given to hyperbole but living with him throughout his career I thought in the end that I did know. His skill undoubtedly lay in an ability to interpret faithfully what he saw in image to his finished work but over all I think he had a rare gift for truth. Every one of his characters, whether real or imaginary, was believable and not one, however weird and wonderful, looked as if they were wearing fancy dress.

Sale and image enquiries:
mollo@bonhams.com

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