William Randolph Hearst surrounded himself with visual art. Whether in his lavish personal life, where his residences were filled with paintings and tapestries from his buying trips to Europe, or in his journalistic life, where he followed the lead of Joseph Pulitzer and filled his newspapers with drawings, cartoons and illustrations, or later, in his romantic life, where he placed his mistress Marion Davies in elaborate costume drama films that displayed her personal beauty while burying her very real acting talent, Hearst reveled in, understood the power of, and manipulated art and imagery throughout his life and his careers. Perhaps ironically, the pictures that he patronized that were ultimately the most important and most influential were those that would, by most observers, be accorded the lowest social status. His art collection is today all but forgotten, and the motion pictures he produced are unknown to all but scholars of the history of film. However, the illustrations for his newspaper’s journalistic pages played an immediate political and historical role and continue to be reproduced. And the comic strips for the Sunday funnies that appeared in his own newspapers were also widely syndicated to many others across the United States and around the world through his King Features Syndicate. Many of them continue to be reprinted in books and deeply influence the growing fields of comic art and graphic novels.
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