Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Look Up! - Part I

"Look Up" is the encouraging imperative expressed by many astronomers and especially by my friends at Slooh.com.

Since the earliest times in the history of humankind, we have been looking up in awe, with inspiration and with a variety of cultural, spiritual and scientific interests. Entire cultures have evolved and revolved around the stunning revelations of our Milky Way galaxy and beyond. Today, with the benefits of space telescopes like Hubble, Kepler, and Spitzer to name three, looking up takes us deep into the universe.

Long before we had powerful telescopes like those mentioned above, we were entranced by the imagination and art of illustrator/artists and science writers who focused our minds eye on what could be in our solar systems and the universe beyond. In this two-part issue of "The Art in Science" I talk about two men who's artistic craft have kept us fascinated and interested in astronomy and humankind's exploration of space.

The magnificent image of Saturn and four of its moons taken recently by the Hubble Space Telescope provides an ideal entry point(click on the image to enlarge it). If you click here you will see an artist's imagination of what it would be like to venture into space. The artist is Chesley Bonestell who I suspect helped keep many of you devoted to astronomy and especially to the concept of space travel. The entire concept of "Man Conquers Space" was a combined effort of Bonestell, Wernher von Braun, Willy Ley, Fred Whipple and Cornelius Ryan. This was the first of many collaborations between Chesley and various leading space scientists to present to the public their concepts of the coming exploration of space.

The following is a direct excerpt from Wikipedia which succinctly covers Bonestell amazing career.

"Bonestell was born in San Francisco, California. His first astronomical painting was done in 1905. After seeing Saturn through the 12-inch (300 mm) telescope at San Jose's Lick Observatory, he rushed home to paint what he had seen. The painting was destroyed in the fire that followed the 1906 earthquake.

Bonestell studied architecture at Columbia University in New York City. Dropping out in his third year, he worked as a renderer and designer for several of the leading architectural firms of the time. While with William van Alen, he designed the art deco fa├žade of the Chrysler Building as well as its distinctive gargoyles. During this same period, he designed the Plymouth Rock Memorial, the U.S. Supreme Court Building, the New York Central Building, Manhattan office and apartment buildings and several state capitols.

Returning to the West Coast, he prepared illustrations of the chief engineer's plans for the Golden Gate Bridge for the benefit of funders. When the Great Depression dried up architectural work in the United States, Bonestell went to England, where he rendered architectural subjects for the Illustrated London News. In the late 1930s he moved to Hollywood, where he worked (without screen credit) as a special effects artist, creating matte paintings for such films as The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939), Citizen Kane (1941), and The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)"

It was at this point that Chesley recognized that he could pull together his artistic talents and experience and apply them to graphic representations of our solar system and outer space. In this regard he was especially fascinated with manned exploration of our solar system and space. He collaborated with science author Willy Ley ("The Conquest of Space") and with rocket scientist Wernher von Braun he began a stunning new career creating space art.

Bonestell's art in science legacy lives on, and in my eyes the works of Marilynn Flynn carries forward that legacy with stunning results. To view more of Chesley Bonestell's work you may click here. To visit Marilynn Flynn's web site you may click here.

In Part 2 of this posting, I will present the works of Willy Ley who, as a space science writer used his art of writing to stimulate our minds to look beyond Earth out into deep space. Please join me.

The Art In Science (c) 2009 Waddell Robey. Individual copyrights apply.