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Actor, Director Richard Whorf Was Also An Artist

Richard Whorf, East River, New York, oil on board
Richard Whorf, East River, New York, oil on board (Photo courtesy of

For those of you that think that actors and other celebrities just recently began getting into art, think again. I found a 1947 article in the Nevada State Journal titled: Film Stars Turn to Easel For Hobby. The article lists such stars as June Haver, Fred MacMurray, John Payne, Joan McCracken, Linda Darnell, Ginger Rogers, Lionel Barrymore, Red Skelton, Bette Davis, Vincent Price, Richard Whorf, and many more.

Director, actor, producer Richard Whorf was considered one of the best of the celebrity visual artists during his time.

Whorf starred with James Cagney in “Yankee Doodle Dandy”, with Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn in “Keeper of the Flame”, and with Humphrey Bogart in “Chain Lightning”. His credits as film director included “Till the Clouds Roll By”, “Love From a Stranger”, “It Happened in Brooklyn” and “Champagne for Caesar”. Whorf was also known for directing many popular TV shows in the 1940s, 50s and 60s, such as “The Beverly Hillbillies”, “My Three Sons” and “Gunsmoke”. He was also a writer and costume designer. He acted, directed and did scenic design for the stage as well.

In addition to all of his film, television and stage work, Whorf was a painter and sculptor. Richard Whorf is the son of commercial artist and graphic designer Harry C. Whorf and brother of watercolorist John Whorf. His brother Benjamin Lee Whorf was a noted linguist.

According to a 1965 article in the Eureka Humbolt Standard titled, Movie Colony Goes Art Crazy, Whorf’s paintings were selling for $500 and up at the time, and at a one-man show, “more stars appeared than for a premiere.” It goes on to say that Whorf sold more than 40 paintings at the show. The article lists the many stars that owned Whorf’s paintings including Raymond Massey, Gene Kelly, and Frank Sinatra, who was also an artist.

Whorf said that there is correlation between between composing a scene for a movie camera and painting a scene on canvas. “A director or cinematographer sees most things through the eye of an artist,” he explained.

Regarding the popularity of painting among actors, Whorf said:

Actors are painting because they have so much time on their hands. Between pictures they manage to play all the golf that they want, go boating or travel around. After that, boredom sets in. Then they find they have talent with a brush. It’s all related to the basic artistic, creative talent that made them actors in the first place. A means of self-expression.

Whorf had a number of successful exhibitions during his lifetime. Richard Whorf died in 1966 at the age of 60.

The painting posted here, East River, New York by Richard Whorf, is currently for sale at

Richard Whorf, East River, New York, oil on board

Visit the Pop Life Art homepage for links to many more actors that paint.