Robert Temple Ayres was born in 1913, in Lansing, Michigan, into an artistic family. His mother was an artist and pianist; his sister, Betty Ayres, a professional violinist; his Uncle Harry Temple, a prominent Woodstock artist; and his cousin, is the former child star Shirley Temple. Though Robert had a great desire to paint from childhood, his art studies were interrupted by the Depression, family business, and World War II.
Robert studied painting under William H. Mosby at the American Academy of Art in Chicago, under Henry Lee McFee at the Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles and F. Tolles Chamberlin at Jepson’s Institute in Los Angeles.
Mr. Ayres began his professional career in advertising and book illustration. Soon after art school he painted “The Savior”, which has been reproduced and circulated internationally. It was Biblical illustrations for book publications and later a series for church bulletin covers which resulted in an assignment to illustrate the opening scenes of Ben Hur. That opened the way for twenty-five years as an illustrator with M.G.M., Paramount, Warner Brothers, Seven Arts, Universal, and the last fourteen years at Disney Studios. One of his best known sketches is the burning map at the beginning of the television series, Bonanza. In 1980 he wound up his studio career by working on the Epcot Center Project for Disney World located in Florida. The TV program 7th Heaven once used Mr. Ayres’ painting, “The Healing Hand”, as a prop in Reverend Camden’s office.
Since retirement in 1980, Mr. Ayres has been active in painting a variety of subjects. The San Diego Historical Landmarks Series, depicting San Diego at the turn of the century, was inspired by the Hotel del Coronado Centennial in 1988. Extensive research from historical societies in the area contributed to the beautiful oil paintings in the series of eight. Mr. Ayres was featured as an artist of exceptional talent on Channel Eight TV, in the San Diego area at that time.
Here is an LA Times article about the artist after his death, and also there is a video clip done by NBC with Brian Williams below:
Robert Temple Ayres 1913-2012
Autry National Center 2011