Showing posts with label Art. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Art. Show all posts

Saturday, April 11, 2020

The Art of Harlan Tarbell

Harlan Tarbell
The Magic Detective Podcast Ep 49 was on the life of Harlan Tarbell. Of course, he's most famous for his Tarbell Course in Magic. However, he was also a full time illustrator and artist. I thought you might enjoy seeing a couple examples of his art. This is by no means ALL he did. But it gives a bit of variety.

A litho poster for Magician Eugene Laurant
Illustrations from The Tarbell Course in Magic
Some Wonderful Caricatures from the pages of The Sphinx Magazine

These are several of his books, some published by the T.S. Denison Company. He was the Art Director there.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Magic Potion #9 Houdini Artwork

I stumbled upon this yesterday. An unusual piece of art using HOUDINI. It reminded me of the Tony Curtis movie, when they referred to the Water Torture Cell as 'The Man In The Bottle'. Here, Houdini IS the MAN in the bottle!

If you're interested in this piece, you can pick it up in various sizes and in various mediums like canvas, wood print, and more.

Friday, February 14, 2014

The Golden Age of Magic - In Bronze

I have posted many statues, sculptures, carvings, figurines and busts of magicians. But now it's time for the finest renditions of them all. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you 'The Masters of Magic's Golden Age!

This series of museum quality, limited edition bronze busts are the creation of Mike and Mary Elizalde. This whole project came about because Mike wanted some museum quality busts for his own magic collection. Mike funded the entire project and they were produced through Spectral Motion, the company that he and his wife own and operate. Spectral Motion is among the world's leading creature and makeup effects studios with over 50 films to its credit. Headed up by Academy Award Nominee Mike Elizalde and his wife Mary, Spectral Motion is known for its astounding cinematic effects and an unblemished record of reliability, believability and superb quality. Let's take a closer look at these incredible bronze busts. I'll post them in historical order. 

Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin (b.Dec 7,1805 d. June 13, 1871) Known to all of us as the Father of Modern Magic. He was the great French Conjurer who we still revere today. Inventor of many incredible automaton like Antonio Diavolo and the Fantastic Blooming Orange Bush.  Also, creator of incredible magic like the Ethereal Suspension, which in updated forms is still presented today. 

Another of his iconic creations was the Light & Heavy Chest, which was used not only to amaze and impress but also to stop a tribal uprising in French Algeria.  

A full size statue of Robert Houdin resides in front of the Maison de la Magie in Blois France.

Alexander Herrmann (b. Feb 10,1844 d. Dec 17, 1896)
The GREAT Herrmann is considered by many to be the first in the line of the famed Mantle of Magic. He was also a Frenchman, like Houdin, but made his fame here in America. Originally, he worked with his brother Compars, until he went out on his own. Compars Herrmann was equally as famous in Europe as his younger brother was in America. The Herrmann's had a Mephistopholean appearance that added to their mystery and intrigue.

Though he had a very mysterious appearance, his magic and performance was filled with comedy. He was also known to do magic off-stage in public places. Perhaps we should credit Alexander Herrmann with being the creator of 'Street Magic'!

Herrmann died suddenly on a train in 1896. His wife Adelaide took over the show and was joined by her nephew Leon, who also bore a striking resemblance to Alexander.

Harry Kellar (b. July 11, 1849 d. March 10,1922) Here we have the Dean of Magicians. So called, because he was the first 'Dean' of the Society of American Magicians. Harry Kellar was the first nationally famous American born magician. The second in line for the Mantle of Magic, though technically, it really started with him, though some do put Herrmann first.

Kellar began his career as an apprentice to the Fakir of Ava. He went out on his own for a short time and eventually went to work for the Davenport Brothers. When he had a falling out with one of the brothers, he left them and took another employee, William Fay, with him. They toured North and South America and were heading to Europe when a ship wreck ended their tour.

Kellar found his way back to the U.S. and rebuilt his show and went on to  have a flourishing career. He and Herrmann, though not friends, shared a secret that I will reveal a bit later in this article.

HOUDINI (b March 24,1874 d. Oct 31, 1926) The most famous magician in the world, who wanted to be known as an 'escape artist' for much of his life, and then as an actor, producer and later as an author and scientific investigator. Eventually, he would return to magic in a grand way with his Three In One Show of Magic, Escapes and Spiritualist Exposures. Houdini is likely responsible for inspiring more people into magic than anyone alive. I know my own push into magic came from discovering Houdini. 

The creation of the Magic Detective Blog, really has a lot to do with Houdini. There are 172 articles on the blog that are either about or that refer to Harry. The next closest is Harry Kellar with 32. He is an icon, a legend and the bust of Houdini created by Spectral Motion captures Houdini in all his splendor. He looks confident, proud and defiant. It's a fantastic image of the Master Mystifier.

Howard Thurston (b. July 20, 1869 d. April 13, 1936) 
If we talk of the Mantle of Magic, Howard received the Mantle of Magic from Harry Kellar in a ceremony at Ford's Theatre in Baltimore on May 16th, 1908. In all truth, it had more to do with Kellar selling his show to Thurston, but it sure made a great publicity campaign and a tradition that has continued up until present time.

I always thought Thurston was a great performer. But I never quite knew the whole story until Jim Steinmeyer published an incredible biography on Thurston called, The Last Greatest Magician In The World. It is a must read for anyone interested in magic or magic history.

Thurston had been making plans to pass the Mantle of Magic onto one of his associates, Harry Jansen, known professionally as Dante. There was never an official ceremony however because Thurston died suddenly.

Chung Ling Soo (b. April 2, 1861 d. March 23, 1918) 
I must admit when I first looked over the list
of people who were selected for bronzes, the one odd one was Chung Ling Soo, at least to me. He was born William Ellsworth Robinson and in all truth, his inclusion in this list is well deserved. Robinson worked for Alexander Herrmann. Later, he worked for Harry Kellar. Robinson was the 'secret' that I referred to earlier. He worked for the rival magicians before his own rise to fame. He was known as the most knowledgeable man in magic during his time. He played an important part in the success of both. 

Robinson also has a connection to Thurston. He allowed Thurston to show Leon Herrmann his version of the Rising Cards, and when it amazed Herrmann, Thurston publicized himself as 'The Man Who Fooled Herrmann'. The meeting would never have happened without Robinson however.

When Robinson went out on his own, he failed miserably. It wasn't until he came up with the idea of doing an Chinese after seeing Ching Ling Foo, that things really took off for him. So convincing was he in his performance that the public was unaware that Soo was really an American. They truly bought into the idea that he was Chinese. He even used an interpreter when he gave interviews. He is the only real life magician who gets a spot in the movie 'The Prestige'. He also had one of the most tragic deaths in the history of magic having been killed while performing the dangerous Bullet Catching Feat.

All of these busts are a little over 12 inches tall. They are made of bronze and are available for purchase. They were produced in limited quantities of 40, so there isn't a huge supply, but there are some that remain. They are all on display at the Magic Castle if you are interested in seeing them in person. If you want to purchase one of these wonderful works of art, realize you are not buying a mass produced bust from Target or Walmart. These are museum quality and exceptional pieces. If you are interested in purchasing one, and I really encourage you to consider this investment because once they are gone, they will be gone for good. Below is the flyer which has all the information for purchasing. You can reach them at (818)956-6080 or by email at

Special thanks for Mike and Mary Elizalde for providing all the wonderful photographs and for your great contribution to magic.

Friday, January 3, 2014

New Houdini Sculpture - Behind the Scenes

This is exciting. Artist/Sculptor/Magician Christopher Tabora has given me permission to post some photos of a HOUDINI Sculpture he is currently working on. The piece you see has about 30-40 hours of work into now and hopes to be finished with it soon. According to Christopher this is a life size sculpture. The gauze you see is only there for support prior to the drying process.

Once completed, Christopher plans to make a mold to have this cast in bronze. THIS might just be the life size HOUDINI sculpture we've all been waiting for. I'll continue to post images as the continues working on the piece. This is really cool!
Christopher Tabora also said he plans to do more life-size 'magician sculptures' in the future.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Still More Houdini Statues and Busts

Just when I think I've found them all, more Houdini art shows up. In this case, I'm looking for sculptures and statues.

This first one I found on I'm including the location of where I found the image. It's apparently a custom made piece. Still, very cool.

This next bust was created by artist Peter Close. It had been available through however their site seems to be suspended. There is no telling what that means, it's the internet, so maybe their site was hacked, who knows. But the bust is an interesting one with Houdini in a straight jacket.

As I recall, the site offered some other busts of famous people, like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. But with the site down, I can't go back and check. Hopefully, it will be back up again soon.

Now here we have something interesting. A Houdini bust from across the pond, as they say. It comes from TheTwinsFX, through,
This is cast in resin and comes in two different finishes. It stands a whopping 21 inches tall. The website says it is limited to 100 busts and it also says the first run sold out. So maybe they are doing more than 100, or they cast less than 100 to start. At any rate, check their website for purchasing info.

Next up, a Houdini and Bess set. I think I might actually have these. I know I own something very
similar but they are in storage. I have no idea who made these and I'm sure they are no longer for sale. But they are an interesting addition to the Houdini bust collection.

There is an amazing sculpture and article featured over at that you must go check out. There are several photos of the piece created by sculptor  Mel Zapata. It's a truly striking piece of Houdini art.

The final one today was featured over at It's a sculpture by artist Victoria Mock. The piece has Houdini in a straight jacket sitting on a box. It's quite cool.

If you want to see more Houdini art, check out some of the past articles on the Houdini Busts.
I'm sure I'll be back with more!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Houdini Hand Carved Sculpture & More

I was so excited to discover this yesterday. What you are viewing is a wooden hand carved sculpture by artist Ed Pribyl. He is an American Folk Artist from Northern Illinois. Every piece is hand carved from basswood then painted using his unique multi-layered antiqued finish. And as you can see, the pieces are amazing.

The Houdini Water Torture was a commissioned piece for a client and sold for $5500.00. Ed told me he is willing to recreate it for the same price and is open to doing other Houdini poses/tricks. So for the collector out there who wants something extra special, Ed's website is

Next we have a magic related sculpture, the iconic magician pulling a rabbit from top hat. It is titled "Abracadabra" and is 18 inches tall, 9 inches wide and 4 inches deep. The cost for this sculpture is $1200.00

Finally, we have a very cool sawing a woman in half sculpture. It is titled "Two For One" and is 17 inches tall, 16 inches wide
and 12 inches deep.  This is simply a beautiful piece of art.
It is available for $1800.00

To see additional images of this piece go here.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Houdini Painting For Sale

Here is a chance of a lifetime. I never let my paintings go this quickly, but this painting of Houdini, which is painted in acrylics on canvas, 24x30 in size is available. I will ship it in a special box made for artwork, foam fitted, plastic covering the back and front to prevent punctures while in transit.

Though I painted a view of Houdini basically from the waist up, my intention was to put all the emphasis on the face. Notice the texture on the image below. I used a ton of paint on the face to give it a very thick appearance, but kept the remainder of the painting simpler, with the exception of the background. By the way, pay no attention to the color in the photo below, the actual color is closer to the top image.

I've not alerted anyone on my art mailing list about the availability of this painting, mainly because I'm hoping it stays in the magic community. However, today I received my first email from a non-magic person who had an interest in the artwork. So, it may be going into the 'world' rather than stay inside the confines of the magic world. I'm frankly ok with that, I just wanted to make the offer to my magic friends first.

Update: Removing the painting from the market as of midnight Dec 31, 2012.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Houdini Painting Stained Glass-Like

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! What a fun way to bring in the New Year by showing a brand new Houdini Painting! I don't usually double post things, but I thought this painting came out so well that I figured I'd post it over here for the Houdini fans to see. I finished this tonight, 1-1-11. It's painted in acrylics on canvas, NOT stained glass, though that is the look I was going for. I've toyed with the notion of actually doing a work in real stained glass before, but never painting it on canvas. Last night when I began the piece, I had been inspired by a stained glass window I saw and figured it wouldn't hurt just to try it out.

All in all, it's a cool piece and I'm not even sure what number this is for Houdini artwork, maybe it's my tenth Houdini painting or maybe eleventh.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Houdini Eyes Painting

For those interested, I have another blog I'm doing strictly devoted to my artwork. As many of you know I do paintings of magicians. There are a LOT of paintings and in various styles. In fact, I'll be putting up some new ones in the next few days. The paintings are not just Houdini, though there are quite a few of those. The site is

The above painting of Houdini's eyes was done about 10 years ago. I wanted to capture the hypnotic effect of his eyes, so the only real detail in the painting is within the eyes. The rest is purposely left rather plain. And what you see in this painting is all there is, I didn't paint the rest of the face only what you see.
The only thing I'd do differently if I had to paint it again is paint it in a different color as the original is in GREEN and often the first thought people have is 'Incredible Hulk', lol. You can see the original over at my other blog.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Chung Ling Soo

Here is another of my profile pieces. This time it's Chung Ling Soo, the fake Chinese Conjuror. I say fake because his real name was William Ellsworth Robinson and he was an American. He worked as assistant and stage manager for Alexander Herrmann and Harry Kellar. He was probably one of the most knowledgeable people on magic during his time but he had trouble connecting with an audience as himself. Upon seeing the real Chinese magician Ching Ling Foo, Robinson decided he too could do an act that way. True to his word he created Chung Ling Soo, and even gave interviews through an interpreter. At one point there was a very big public challenge going on between Soo and Foo which was going to lead to a showdown. But Foo, the real Chinese magician failed to show and Soo became winner by default.

One of his signature tricks was the Bullet Catch. It was this trick that did him in as he was shot on stage during a performance and died a short time later. If you'd like to learn more about Robinson/Soo, I'd suggest the wonderful book by Jim Steinmeyer called 'Glorious Deception'. It is available through Amazon and is a fascinating read.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Young Houdini Painting

This painting is a recreation of a photograph of a very young Harry Houdini. It captures a moment in time before fame, before he really became the Houdini we know about today. The photo that I worked from was faded and kind of blurry so I chose to leave off a number of things from the table on the left. After I completed the painting I found another copy of the photograph which shows more detail. One of the things that could be seen was a pair of Bean Giant handcuffs. The poster in the background is for his SubTrunk routine that he called "Metamorphosis". In the photo the poster is out of focus, so I did the same thing with the painting.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Blue Houdini

I did this back in the late Spring 2010. There are two paintings in this style. The other is Chung Ling Soo which can be seen on my blog under the ART section. In fact, I think I have about 50 of the magic paintings up on the site, maybe more. By the way, the original of this is NOT blue. To see what the actual image looks like you can visit the blog above.