Bonestell Gallery
Chesley Bonestell an American pioneer of Space Art


 

Chesley Bonestell (1888-1986), an American pioneer of space art helped popularize manned space travel.
Content is from the site's 2001 archived pages and other outside sources.

The current website for Chesley Bonestell is found at: http://www.bonestell.org/
Bonestell LLC holds copyright to a majority of Chesley Bonestell's artwork. They license these images for use in a variety of mediums – from film to print publications and exhibition
.

 



Chesley Bonestell: A Brush With The Future
An official selection for the 2018 Newport Beach Film Festival!

 

A Brief Biography of Chesley Bonestell

Written by Frederick C. Durant, III (15 February, 1983)
for The Seibu Museum of Art
Bonestell/Iwasaki Exhibition
Tokyo, Japan | April to September 1983

 

Chesley Bonestell was born 1 January, 1888. He has had three successful careers in art; the best is the one he commenced in 1944, as an artist/illustrator of space flight and astronomical subjects.
At the age of 95, he still paints daily.
Bonestell was born in San Francisco, California. He studied architecture and worked on major structures, including the Golden Gate Bridge (San Francisco) and the Chrysler Tower (New York).
In 1938, at the age of 50, he began a second career as a motion picture special effects artist. Within a few years his unique skill in creating realistic scenes made him the most sought-after matte artist in Hollywood.
Working on such pictures as War of the WorldsWhen Worlds Collide, and Destination Moon, Bonestell refined his space painting techniques. He says: "As my knowledge of the technical side of the motion picture industry broadened, I realized I could apply camera angles as used in the motion pictures studio and illustrate 'travel' from satellite to satellite, showing Saturn exactly as it would look".
Nearly forty years ago he entered his best known career; illustrating astronomical scenes and space flight. During the next decade he created some of his most compelling works: illustrations of manned visits to the Moon and planets. This was a decade before there were national programs for large rockets and satellite flight. It was a time when space flight was the dream of a few enthusiasts, certainly before the subject was professionally acceptable - or even respectable.

Bonestell's ground breaking space illustrations appeared in major publications including: LifeScientific American, and Astounding Science Fiction. He began collaborating with Willy Ley, a founding member of the German Space Travel Society and the author of the classic Rockets, Missiles and Men in Space. Ley and Bonestell produced The Conquest of Space (1949) and Beyond the Solar System (1964). Teaming up with Wernher von Braun and others, they brought out Conquest of the Moon (1953). and Arthur C. Clarke and Bonestell toured the planets in Beyond Jupiter (1972).
Chesley Bonestell's deep intereset in, and knowledge of, astronomy served him well in his depictions of our Solar System. His training in architecture enabled him to render accurate perspective and visual angles.

As an aid to determining the complex perspective of spacecraft in some of his paintings, he made models by drawing scaled pen-and-ink sections on transparent acetate. These right-angle sections were glued together and photographed at whatever angles seemed best. Enlargements were made, traced, and transferred to illustration board in preparation for painting.
In the early 1950s Collier's magazine asked him to illustrate a technical series of articles, to be written by Wernher von Braun, astronomer Fred Whipple, and others. During the next few years, Bonestell illustrated several more major articles for Collier's on themes such as space stations, the training of astronauts, and a manned expedition to Mars.

These articles acted as a catalyst, encouraging discussion and debate among engineers and scientists. Was space flight feasible, or was it just a romantic adventurous dream? Were there economic benefits to be gained? Was it worth the money? While theorists argued about the possibility of rockets and spacecraft traveling to the Moon and planets, Bonestell showed what it would look like when we got there!
Chesley Bonestell died on June 11, 1986 at the age of 98 at his home in Carmel, California.
Thank you to Melvin Schuetz for his new Bonestell Web Site

 



 

Some Examples of Chesley Bonestell Art

 

The Great Siberian Explosion of 1908

 

Date: 
Bauder Catalog Reference: 208
Principal Subject: Earth
Dimensions: 18.5" x 22" 
Medium: 
Museum Showings: 
Publications:

  • The Solar System (1961)
  • The Solar System (1960)
  • Beyond Jupiter - The Worlds of Tomorrow (1972)
  • Worlds Beyond: The Art of Chesley Bonestell (1983)

Notations:

  • Written on back of painting: Original illustration from "Beyond Jupiter".
  • Caption from Worlds Beyond: The Art of Chesley Bonestell: "The core of a comet crashes into the Siberian tundra in 1908, an event that actually took place near the isolated Tunguska River."

 



 

Saturn-Class Booster For Mars Expedition Drops First Stage East of Florida

 

Rocket launch over Florida

Boosting Mars' Ferry Into Earth Orbit

Date: 1962
Bauder Catalog Reference: 227
Principal Subject: Mars
Dimensions: 
Medium: 
Museum Showings: 
Publications:

  • Mars (1964)
  • Worlds Beyond: The Art of Chesley Bonestell (1983) 
  • Scientific American (May 1994)

 



 

Surface of Mars

 

Date: 
Bauder Catalog Reference: 50
Principal Subject: Mars
Dimensions: 26" x 22"
Medium: 
Museum Showings: 
Publications:

  • The Conquest of Space (1949) Plate XXIX
  • Paste in stamps from "National Audubon Society Nature Program" from Our Solar System (1955)

Notations:

  • Remarks from back of painting: "Surface of Mars, Indicating Snowdrifts of the Polar Cap, Looking Toward the setting sun. Bright star is Earth; the Moon is White Dot Above.
  • Caption from The Conquest of Space Plate XXIX: "Although it is considerably colder than earth and clothed in only a threadbare chilly atmosphere, the fourth planet still is provided with more earthlike features than any other. This is what an explorer would see if he were standing on the thin Snowdrifts of the polar cap, looking toward the setting sun. (Checked for color by Dr. Edison Pettit of Mount Wilson and Palomar Observatories.)

 



 

Deserts of Mars

 

Date: 
Bauder Catalog Reference: 69 
Principal Subject: Mars 
Dimensions: 
Medium: 
Museum Showings: 
Publications:

  • The Conquest of Space (1949)
  • "New Paths to New Planets" in Air Trails and Science Frontiers (September, 1947)
  • Our Solar System (1955)

Notations:

  • Caption in Conquest of Space: "XLII. Martian landscape, with eroded mountains in distance, canal and dust storm, desert; green areas and eroded hillside in foreground."

 



In Orbit 600 Miles Above Mars: Space Walking Astronauts Prepare Glider For Descent

 

Date: 
Bauder Catalog Reference: 144 
Principal Subject: 
Dimensions: 23" x 23" 
Medium: 
Museum Showings: 
Publications:

  • The Exploration of Mars (1956)
  • Worlds Beyond: The Art of Chesley Bonestell (1983)

Notations:

  • Caption from The Exploration of Mars: "XXVII. Having completed Maneuver 2, the ships are orbiting around Mars at a distance of 620 miles from its surface and preparations are being made for landing."

 



 

Rocket Returning to Earth from the Moon

IMPORTANT NOTE:

All paintings are protected by copyright (c). Permission for reproduction must be obtained in writing. Address requests to:
Bonestell Space Art

 

Date: 1960
Bauder Catalog Reference: 191
Principal Subject: Moon
Dimensions: 20" x 24"
Medium: 
Museum Showings: 
Publications:

  • Rocket to the Moon (1961)

Notations:

  • Painted for Panorami Series of the Columbia Records Club in 1960.

 



Exploring the Moon

Date: 
Bauder Catalog Reference: 45
Principal Subject: Moon
Dimensions: 25" x 22" 
Medium: 
Museum Showings: The Seibu Museum of Art, Tokyo Japan, May 5-17, 1983 
Publications:

  • The Conquest of Space (1949) Plate XXIV
  • "Astounding Science Fiction" (July, 1948)
  • "Baedecker of the Solar System" in Saturday Review of Literature (December 24, 1949)
  • Our Solar System (1955)
  • "Chesley Bonestell: Space Painter - The Master at 90" in Future Life (April, 1978)
  • "An Earthquake, a Boring Job, the Boob Public - Chesley Bonestell at 90 Has Survived Them All" in People (February 13, 1978)
  • "Chesley Bonestell at 91" in Palo Alto Medical Clinic Exhibition Brochure (March/April, 1979)
  • Spacecraft in Fact and Fiction (1979)
  • Worlds Beyond - The Art of Chesley Bonestell in "Sky and Telescope" (July, 1984)
  • "Starman" in Omni (July, 1987)

Notations:

  • Caption from The Conquest of Space (1949): "The ship, having landed on its tail, will take off from this position for the return to earth,"


The Star Series

Chesley Bonestell painted several paintings depicting famous stars in our galaxy.

 



 

The Supergiant Mera Ceti

Date: 1976
Bauder Catalog Reference: 
Principal Subject: Stars 
Dimensions: 
Medium: Oil on canvas board 
Museum Showings:
Publications: 
Notations:

 



 

Chesley Bonestell and Jupiter


During the month of July, 1994, the shattered comet Shoemaker - Levy 9 collided with Jupiter. All of the comet fragments struck the dark farside of Jupiter. Several of these fragments produced changes in the surface image of Jupiter when they struck.

Below is a sample of Bonestell paintings which all focus on this marvelous planet. With each painting is some background information detailing specifics of it.


     

Certainly man has always been intrigued by Jupiter, our solar system's largest planet. And so, this collision with a comet raises new interest in the planet with the big red dot. One man who certainly would have enjoyed this astronomical event is Chesley Bonestell.

Chesley Bonestell was an artist and illustrator who created paintings depicting astronomical scenes and space flight explorations. Bonestell's impact upon the field of space exploration was recently the focus of an article in Scientific American (May, 1994).

**The astronomical information contained in this gallery comes directly from the work of Chesley Bonestell and reflects his theories and the scientific knowledge held at the time of painting.

 


Jupiter From Jupiter V

Jupiter from Jupiter V (Amalthea), its closest satellite

Date: 
Bauder Catalog Reference: 273
Principal Subject: Jupiter 
Dimensions: 
Medium: 
Museum Showings: The Seibu Museum of Art, Tokyo Japan, May 5-17, 1983
Publications:

  • Beyond Jupiter - the Worlds of Tomorrow (1972) Plate VII
  • Exhibition Catalog, The Seibu Museum of Art (1983)

Notations:

  • Caption from Plate VIII of Beyond Jupiter - The Worlds of Tomorrow: "Jupiter from its closest satellite, Jupiter V (Amalthea), 112, 600 miles distant, showing typical cloud formations, the Great Red Spot and the shadow of an outer satellite in transit."

 


Jupiter, as seen from its satellite Callisto

Date: 
Bauder Catalog Reference: 291
Principal Subject: Jupiter
Dimensions:
Medium: 
Museum Showings: 
Publications:

  • Space Art (1978)
  • "Chesley Bonestell: Space Painter - The Master at 90" in Future Life #1 (April 1978)
  • "Beyond Our Time: An Interview with Artist Chesley Bonestell" in Mercury - Journal of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific (May/June 1977)
  • "An Earthquake, a Boring Job, the Boob Public - Chesley Bonestell at 90 Has Survived Them All" in People (February 13, 1978)

 


 

Jupiter From Europa

Date Painted: 1974 
Bauder Catalog Reference: 214 
Principal Subject: Jupiter
Dimensions: 
Medium: 
Museum Showings:
Publications:

  • The Solar System (1961)
  • The Solar System (1968)

Notations:

  • Written on back of painting: "Europa is Jupiter's second closest satellite - 416,600 miles distant. Angle of vision is 40 degrees.

 


Jupiter's Violent Surface

Date Painted: 1961
Bauder Catalog Reference: 215
Principal Subject: Jupiter
Dimensions: 
Medium: 
Museum Showings: The Seibu Museum of Art, Tokyo Japan, May 5-17, 1983 
Publications:

  1. The Solar System (1961)
  2. The Solar System (1965)
  3. "Infinite Voyager" in Omni (February, 1980)
  4. "Space Visionary - A Pioneer's Portfolio" in Science Digest (January, 1988)
  5. "Pictorial by Chesley Bonestell" in The Best of Omni (March, 1983)
  6. Worlds Beyond: The Art of Chesley Bonestell (1983)
  7. C. Bonestell and K. Iwasaki Exhibition Catalog, The Seibu Museum of Art, Tokyo Japan (April - September, 1983)
  8. "Chesley Bonestell's Vision of Space" (1984)
  9. Space Art (1978)

Notations:

  • Text from metal plate located on back of painting: "Jupiter's Violent Surface." "Beneath the cloudy, multicolored bands concealing Jupiter's surface there are probably the violent and gigantic bursts of energy of a planet in upheaval...some astronomers think that we might find seas of liquid ammonia, cascades of fiery lava, cliffs of ice and great hydrogen explosions." The giant planet is 86,640 miles across, 483,300,000 miles from the sun, and covered by dense clouds whose top side temperature is about 200 degrees below zero. Jupiter has 12 moons.
  • Caption from Worlds Beyond: The Art of Chesley Bonestell: "The violent surface of Jupiter, Bonestell painted several versions of this scene; the first was published in 1947, This version was published by the Columbia Record Club in 1961, and shows seas of liquid ammonia, cascades of fiery lava, cliffs of ice and great hydrogen explosions."

 


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