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Makeup Artists

History

Theatrical makeup is as old as the theater itself. Cultures around the world performed ritualistic dances, designed by spiritual leaders, to communicate with gods and other supernatural forces. These dances often involved elaborate costumes and makeup. By the Elizabethan age, theater had become an entertainment requiring special makeup techniques to transform the male actors into female characters. In Asia in the 17th century, Kabuki theater maintained the symbolic origins of the drama; actors wore very stylized makeup to depict each character's nature and social standing. It was not until the late 18th century in Europe that plays, and therefore costumes and makeup, were based on realistic portrayals of society. The grease stick, a special makeup stick that could withstand harsh stage lights without smearing, was invented in the 19th century.

This grease stick led the way for other advancements in the chemistry of stage makeup, but even today's makeup artists must use ingenuity and invention to create special effects. With the advent of filmmaking came new challenges in makeup design—artists were required to create makeup that would not only hold up under intense lighting, but would look realistic close up. The silent film star Lon Chaney was a pioneer in makeup effects; his dedication to the craft was so extreme that he permanently injured himself with the restrictive prosthetics he used in The Hunchback of Notre Dame in 1923. His gruesome makeup design for The Phantom of the Opera in 1925 set a standard for all horror films to follow; today, the horror genre has inspired some of the most inventive and memorable makeup effects in film history.

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