Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Chesley Bonestell

 I first saw his paintings in a book my father has had on his shelf for now over 50 years.  I can't remember which book it was (Conquest of Space or Worlds Beyond I believe) but as a kid these images were likely what sparked my interest in space in general and the instill in me the need for humans to escape our little cradle.  I can still see the faded dust jacket with numerous cracks and tears from frequent reading.

The paintings were and are stunning and stand with anything created in the 20th Century, particularly in terms of influence and wide acclaim.  What I have not known till now is how wide Bonestell's influence was beyond this book of my father's and how often I had viewed his work unknowingly.

Bonestell was a designer on the Chrysler building in NYC, SF's Golden Gate Bridge, worked extensively on the image designs for Citizen Kane (frequently regarded as the #1 film of all time), was the character inspiration for an Ayn Rand character in The Fountainhead, worked as a large scale artist on films such as War of the Worlds and When Worlds Collide and was frequently featured in Life and Scientific American magazines.  And I think we can see from the images how much of an influence he was on films such as 2001: A Space Odyssey and many others

Its the clarity and realism of the work that stuns me to this day with the paintings looking far more like photographs than anything done by a human hand.  His work inspired many such as Carl Sagan and virtually the entire US space program and is still influencing scientists and artists today.  He also depicted things in his paintings really not discussed or known to the general public decades before they became science fact and not fiction such as binary star systems and the early, molten rock and comet ridden beginnings of our own planet.  Not bad for someone born well before man ever took flight.  Some of my favorites of his paintings are included here and there is a bit more extensive article linked below.

Chesley Bonestell article...

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