The Elusive Ellescas Who Illustrates LP’s

Sometimes it is difficult to find information about artists and illustrators, and the seemingly “elusive” Richard “Dick” Ellescas is one. Ellescas is a 20th Century American artist and illustrator and member of the California Art Club, which was established in 1909, in Pasadena, California (CA).

Ellescas spent some time as a teacher of illustration at the Art Center College of Design, at 5353 West Third Street, Los Angeles, CA. A short biography of his career appears in the Art Center’s Catalogue in 1974. It states that Ellescas is or has been a member of the Art Center College of Design and the Chouinard Art Institute, School of Visual Arts. His work experience includes: Freelance illustrator. Accounts: Robinson’s, American Greetings, Angel Records, Cosmopolitan, Monsanto, Don Loper men’s fashions; Film titles for ‘Ship of Fools‘. Awards: Best of Show, 1973 Illustrators show, Los Angeles, CA.

  • Previously, Ellescas was a member of a group, including Earl Newman, Wes Wilson, Marv Grayson and others; who conducted an arts and crafts sale and benefit exhibition for intellectually disabled children at the Pacific State Hospital in Pomona, Los Angeles, CA, in December, 1968.

Ellescas illustrated the advertising poster and cover design for  the British black comedy satirical film The Magic Christian (1969) directed by Joseph McGrath and starring Peter Sellers and Ringo Starr, with appearances by John Cleese, Raquel Welch, Spike Milligan, Christopher Lee, Richard Attenborough and Roman Polanski. It was loosely adapted from the 1959 comic novel The Magic Christian by the American author Terry Southern, who co-wrote the screenplay adaptation with McGrath. It included songs by Badfinger including one written by Starr’s former The Beatles band member, Paul McCartney.

  • Over the years, Ellescas is known to have illustrated at least 29 LP record covers from 1972-1985. I have included two images from the EMI His Masters Voice classics LP covers, both illustrated by Ellescas. They include:

In a Monastery Garden music of Albert W. Ketelbey including In a Persian Market, In a Chinese Temple Garden and Bells Across the Meadow. John Lanchberry and the Philharmonia Orchestra with the Ambrosian Singers. Choral Master: John McCarthy  (1978). The Composer: Albert W Ketelbey was born in Birmingham, on August 4, 1875. He became a composer of light classical music and died on the Isle of Wight on November 26, 1959.

  • In a Monastery Garden was written in 1915 after a visit to a real monastic garden, now the Benedictine monastery of St Augustine’s Abbey, Chilworth, Surrey. Within this composition the listener can detect the calm serene atmosphere, the leafy trees and the singing birds as the monks are heard chanting the ‘Kyrie Eleison‘, with the sound of an organ playing and the chapel bells ringing.
  • In a Persian Market was written in 1920. The sounds heard include a caravan arriving, the cries of beggars and the entry of a beautiful princess, carried by servants. The princess watches the jugglers and snake charmers. The Caliph passes by, interrupting the entertainment. A muezzin calls to prayer from a minaret. The caravan continues its journey; and the market becomes silent.
  • Bells Across the Meadows was published in 1921. Beginning with solo bells it is followed by a quiet melody with strings and woodwinds. When repeated, a “chimes effect” provides the illusion of being “heard from a distant belfry across the meadows”. A last repeat is carried by “bells ringing out joyously and then gradually dying away in the distance”.
  • In a Chinese Temple Garden was composed in 1923. Subtitled an Oriental Phantasy, it illustrates a priestly incantation, “The Incantation of the Priests in the Temple“, which is followed by “The Perfume of Incense Floats on the Air“. Two lovers are illustrated by a melody for cello, viola and oboe. This is followed by a noisy Manchu wedding procession, followed by an argument of “coolies”, which is based on a Chinese scale. The temple gong restores quietness, and the piece ends recalling many of the themes.

The second image is from Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s ballet Swan Lake Highlights (1875–76). Andre Previn and the London Symphony Orchestra (Solo violin: Ida Haendel). Swan Lake is one of most popular of classic ballets.

  • The story is centered around Prince Siegfried who leaves his castle with friends and goes on a hunt where he sees a bevy of swans gliding across the lake. When his hunting party takes aim, the leader of the swans swoops round to protect them and asks of Siegfried why he wishes to persecute her. She is actually Princess Odette bewitched into a swan by day, resuming her human form only at night; and the swan-maidens are her attendants. She tells him that only a vow of eternal love can break the spell and release her. Baron Rothbart is the magician who holds them in thrall, and appears in the guise of an owl and threatens Siegfried.
  • Siegried invites Odette to a ball at his castle. Rothbart enters the ball with his daughter Odile whom he has transformed into the likeness of Odette. Siegfried announces that he has chosen Odile as his bride. After Rothbart persuades him to vow eternal love and thereby breaches his vow to Odette, they show him a vision of Odette still trapped on the lake.
  • Odette returns to the swan-maidens in despair, and tells them that she has been betrayed and no hope remains. A contrite Siegfried arrives in search of Odette. He begs for her forgiveness. She forgives him, but his betrayal cannot be undone. Rather than remain a swan forever, Odette chooses to die, doing so in his arms. Siegfried chooses to die with her and they leap into the lake, where they will stay together forever. Taking the coronet from her head, he casts it on the waters of the lake which rise to engulf the lovers.
  • As the waters subside, the swans are seen on the surface, gliding silently into the distance. This breaks Rothbart’s spell over the swan maidens, causing him to lose his power over them and he dies. In an apotheosis, the swan maidens, who transform to regular maidens, watch as Siegfried and Odette ascend into the Heavens together, forever united in love.

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