DATELINE: Sci-Fi Art
An artist you likely never heard of by name may be one of the most intriguing personalities of the 20thcentury. His name is Chesley Bonestell, and you have seen his work all over the world.
A staggering biographical documentary called A Brush with the Future tells his amazing story.
Living to be nearly 100 years of age, he passed away in the 1980s But, his life transcended the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake to days of Old Hollywood and New York City at its pinnacle.
He managed to succeed in whatever he put his energy. Though he preferred to be an artist, his first years in a profession was work as an architect. After the great earthquake in his hometown, he helped to re-build the city with Willis Polk. It was Chesley who drew the illustrations for investors and made the schematics come to life.
When he went to Los Angeles in the late 1930s, he took a job for several studios as the matte painter. You’d think that to be a rather anonymous job, but he transformed it into a peak of success by making all the set designs for Orson Welles in Citizen Kane and also Magnificent Ambersons. It was his vision of Xanadu, interior and out.
Between jobs, he did the design brochures for Golden Gate Bridge and made it a popular idea across the world with its startling originality and beauty.
Later, he designed the architecture for the movie version of Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead. Then, in New York, he worked on the Chrysler building. It was a full life: but not his true fame.
Yes, in 1944 for Life magazine he did some color illos of the planet Saturn that looked like a rover had landed. It was a true vision of the future, and made him a staple of science fiction.
His terrain paintings of Mars, the Moon, and other planets, decades ago showed a man who saw the future and painted it as it is. It was his teaming with scientist Willy Ley (from TV’s Tom Corbett Space Cadet) who co-authored a book called Conquest of Space. Ley was a friend of Frank Thomas and Jan Merlin, stars of the show (who later teamed with this writer). How many degrees is that?
Jan Merlin and Dr. William Russo collaborated on six books.