(1888-1986) US astronomical illustrator. Bonestell studied as an architect in San Francisco, his birthplace, but never graduated; he was employed by many architectural firms and aided in the design of the Golden Gate Bridge and Chrysler Building. He then began working as a matte artist to produce special effects and background paintings for over a dozen films, including Citizen Kane (1941), The Horn Blows at Midnight (1945), Destination Moon (1950), When Worlds Collide (1951), War of the Worlds (1953), and The Conquest of Space (1955); his work was also used in Cat-Women of the Moon (1953) and the television series Men into Space (1959-1960).
In the early 1940s he began astronomical painting on a major scale; much of his work appeared in Life magazine, though his most influential paintings were those that accompanied the renowned series of space articles in Collier's Weekly (1952-1953) overseen by Wernher von Braun. From 1949 to 1972, he completed astronomical artwork for ten books, including the classic science-fact book The Conquest of Space (1949), with text by Willy Ley, and Beyond Jupiter: The Worlds of Tomorrow (1972), a collaboration with Arthur C Clarke. In 1950-1951 Bonestell painted a 10 x 40 feet (about 3 x 12 metres) mural for the Boston Museum of Science; it was transferred to the National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institution in 1976. His space paintings were also used as cover illustrations for Astounding (12 covers) and F&SF (38 covers) from 1947 onwards, making him a favourite of sf fans. In depicting planetary landscapes and predicted space vehicles, his style was a photographic realism, showing great attention to correctness of perspective and scale in conformity with the scientific knowledge of the day; some of his Moon paintings, for example, were truly prophetic in their accuracy, and his paintings of Saturn as seen from the surfaces of its moons are understandably regarded as classics. But, more than that, his work held great beauty and drama in its stillness and depth. Many book lovers of the post-World War Two generation may attribute their fascination with space exploration as much to Bonestell's paintings as to their reading of space fiction or nonfiction, and Gary Westfahl has suggested that his dogged determination to follow scientific principles in his artistic creations was a key influence on the development of Hard SF.
The recipient of many awards, Bonestell earned a Special Achievement Hugo in 1974, and he was posthumously inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2005. The Chesley Awards for outstanding science fiction and fantasy art are named in his honour. [JG/PN/GW]
see also: Astounding Science-Fiction; Space Stations.
Chesley Knight Bonestell Jr
born San Francisco, California: 1 January 1888
died 11 June 1986
about the artist
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