Kent Twitchell

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Kent Twitchell (born August 17, 1942, Lansing, Michigan) is an American muralist who is most active in Los Angeles. He is most famous for his larger-than-life mural portraits, often of celebrities and artists. His murals are realism not photorealism according to Twitchell.


Bride and Groom mural by Kent Twitchell. Mural in Los Angeles, California on the Victor Clothing Company.

Twitchell's father was Robert Twitchell who was a farmer. Twitchell went to Dimondale High School (1957–59) and Everett High School (class of 1960.) He worked for J. C. Penney as a display artist (1965–66) in Atlanta, Georgia. Twitchell joined the United States Air Force and was stationed in London, where he served as an illustrator.

Upon his discharge, he studied art at East Los Angeles College (AA, 1968), California State University, Los Angeles (BA, 1972), and the Otis College of Art and Design (MFA, 1977). He was active in the creation of the Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles and served on its advisory board.[1]

In 1980, Twitchell's murals to date, including Bride and Groom and The Freeway Lady, were featured extensively in a documentary, Mur Murs, directed by Agnes Varda.

In 1992 a court awarded him damages for the destruction of The Freeway Lady.[2] The mural was later restored.[3] He was based in Echo Park, California for most of his career, until the 1994 Northridge earthquake[4] destroyed his studio. Shortly thereafter, Twitchell and his family moved to northern California.

In 2008 he settled a lawsuit against the U.S. Government and 12 other defendants (Kent Twitchell v. West Coast General Corp et al.)[5] for painting over his 70-foot-tall (21 m) landmark mural of Edward Ruscha, an important Los Angeles-based Pop artist. The settlement amount – $1.1 million – is believed to be the largest settlement ever under the seldom-invoked Federal Visual Artists Rights Act (VARA) or the California Art Preservation Act (CAPA). VARA and CAPA forbid desecration, alteration, or destruction of certain public works of art without prior notice to the artist to allow for removal.[6]

His most recent show was in Los Angeles, California April 2009 at the LOOK gallery entitled "Thriller: The King of Pop Meets the King of Cool: Exploring the Lost Works of Kent Twitchell." The exhibition included sketches, photos and drawings for "lost" murals, as well as one that was completed but never installed or shown to the public: A 100-foot-tall (30 m), 60-foot-wide (18 m) portrait of Michael Jackson, created in the early 1990s for the side of the former Barker Bros. building in Hollywood, now the El Capitan Theatre, and a mural of actor Steve McQueen. He currently has a studio in downtown Los Angeles.

After the death of musician Michael Jackson on June 25, 2009 interest was revived in Twitchell's Michael Jackson mural which is 100 feet (30 m) tall and 60 feet (18 m) wide entitled "Smooth Criminal." November 2009 Kent Twitchell painted two murals on two pieces of the Berlin wall for the 20-year anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. One was the portrait of John Kennedy, the other Ronald Reagan. They depicted the US Presidents at the beginning and the fall of the Berlin wall. Controversy ensued and Twitchell was disappointed when only one piece could fit in the installation as per the organizers of the exhibit. Twitchell decided to display half of each piece in the exhibit which worked out perfectly.

Well-known works[edit]

Title Year Location Status
Bride and Groom 1972–1976 Monarch Bridle Owner Carlos Ortiz (exterior facing northeast) 240 South Broadway, Los Angeles, California (between 2nd and 3rd streets) extant
Ed Ruscha Monument 1978–1987 Job Corps Center, exterior, 1031 South Hill St., Los Angeles, California (between 11th St. and Olympic Boulevard) Destroyed without authorization (painted over completely) on 2 June 2006 [1]
The Freeway Lady 1974 Angeles Prince Hotel (exterior), 1255 West Temple Street, Los Angeles, California (visible from the Hollywood Freeway) painted over in 1987, repainted in 2015 on the Student Service building at Los Angeles Valley College 5800 Fulton Ave, Valley Glen, CA
Harbor Freeway Overture 1991–1993 Citicorp Plaza parking structure (exterior), 8th Street and the Harbor Freeway (110), Los Angeles, California extant
Holy Trinity with Virgin 1978 Otis College of Art and Design (exterior) 2401 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, California (facing Carondelet, west side of campus) extant
Julius Erving (Dr. J) 1989 Ridge Avenue at Green Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania extant
L.A. Marathon Mural 1990 Northbound side of the San Diego Freeway (405), Inglewood, California, just past Century Boulevard; relocated and restored in late 2006 to southbound side of 5 Freeway just past Stadium Way exit extant
Leaf 1981 1566 Ridge Crest Way, Monterey Park, California (near Monterey Pass Road) extant
111th Street Jesus 1984 Tiger Liquor Store (exterior), corner of Vermont Avenue at 111th Streets, Los Angeles, California Painted over in 1999
Seventh Street Altarpiece 1983–1984 Harbor Freeway (110), Los Angeles, California (both sides at 7th St. underpass) destroyed, then moved to US 101 under Grand overpass, extant but barely visible under heavy tagging
Six Los Angeles Artists 1979 Employment Development Department (exterior rear), 1220 Engracia Avenue, Torrance, California. Artists were Marta Chaffee Stang, Alonzo Davis, Paul Czirban, Oliver Nowlin, Eloy Torrez, and Wayanna Kato. extant
Steve McQueen Monument 1971 Northwest corner dwelling at Union Avenue and 12th Street (exterior), Los Angeles, California painted over completely; restored 2010
Strother Martin Monument 1972 5200 Fountain Avenue at Kingsley Drive (exterior of southwest corner), Los Angeles, California extant
The Watchers 1984 Barnsdall Park Junior Arts Center (exterior), 4814 Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles, California extant
The Word [2] 1989–1990 Biola University Science Building (exterior), 13800 Biola Avenue, La Mirada, California extant


  • July 16, 2009, Mercury News, "Jackson death revives interest in Twitchell mural."
  • April 2, 2009, Los Angeles Times, Haithman, Diane, "Kent Twitchell: Once there were murals."
  • May 1, 2008, Los Angeles Times, Haithman, Diane, "Artist Kent Twitchell settles suit over disappearing mural. The U.S. government is among 11 defendants who will pay $1.1 million after painting over the six-story 'Ed Ruscha monument.'"
  • March 21, 1992, Los Angeles Times, "Putting a Firewall Around Murals 'Old woman of the freeway' gets a new lease on life."
  • March 20, 1992, Los Angeles Times, Snow, Shauna, "Homecoming for Lady of the Freeway Art: Kent Twitchell's mural will be restored as a result of a settlement ending more than four years of litigation."
  • October 16, 1991, Daily News, "LA Chamber Orchestra mural to conduct freeway traffic flow."
  • August 28, 1990,Los Angeles Times, Smith, Doug, "Muralist asks city to pay for whiteout."
  • March 4, 1990, Daily News, "Conservancy is out to save the murals."
  • July 28, 1989, Philadelphia Inquirer, "Planting a notion about art the anti-graffiti network hopes a muralist will inspire graffiti writers to find creative alternatives."
  • August 26, 1986, Los Angeles Times, Ito, Kai, "A tall tribute muralist toils to honor Ed Ruscha, key figure in contemporary L.A. art."
  • October 19, 1984, Los Angeles Times, Pincus, Robert, "Twitchell: The wedding of realism and belief."
  • May 20, 1984, Los Angeles Times, Auerbach, Michael, "Olympic '84 - Art from the fast lane."
  • February 19, 1980, Los Angeles Times, Muchnic, Suzanne, "Little people make it big with Twitchell."
  • February 19, 1980, Los Angeles Times, Elvenstar, Diane, "A larger-than-life painter- Painter's Art."
  • September 5, 1973, Los Angeles Times, Burke, Kathy, "Paints five-story picture by numbers- Artist up against wall on mammoth mural."
  • November 6, 2009, Los Angeles Times, Villarreal, Yvonne, "When the two halves of Berlin became whole again."
  • November 4, 2009, Associated Press, Rogers, John, "Berlin Wall drives wedge through LA art community."

External links[edit]