Space Artist Robert McCall Dies At 90
Robert McCall, known for his space paintings that have appeared on U.S. postage stamps, NASA mission patches, and the walls of the Smithsonian, passed away on Friday, February 25, of a heart attack in Scottsdale, Arizona. He was 90, according to collectspace.com. He was known by genre fans for the posters he created for Stanley Kubrick‘s 2001: A Space Odyssey and for serving as the art director on Disney’s The Black Hole as well as the 1979 Paramount feature film Star Trek: The Motion Picture.
Here’s how the site describes McCall’s life and career: “Born in Columbus, Ohio in 1919, McCall’s early interest in art led to his winning a scholarship to the Columbus Fine Art School following his graduation from high school. After serving in the Army Air Corps during World War II, McCall did a short stint as an advertising artist before becoming a magazine illustrator for the Saturday Evening Post, LIFE, and Popular Science.
“Invited by the Air Force in the mid-1950s to tour air bases around the world as part of an art program, McCall created nearly 50 paintings which he donated to the Air Force and which now hang in the Pentagon, the Air Force Academy, and as part of a traveling exhibition open to the public.
“Enamored by the advent of NASA, McCall was one of the first artists to be invited into the civilian space agency’s own art program, alongside the likes of Norman Rockwell and other well-known American painters. In attendance at every major launch, McCall became an eyewitness to the U.S. space program, following the astronauts through their flight preparations and missions.
“Once described by author Isaac Asimov as the “nearest thing to an artist in residence from outer space,” McCall’s paintings first attracted the public’s attention in the 1960s on the pages of LIFE magazine, illustrating the magazine’s series on the future of space travel. He expanded on that theme at the invitation of director Stanley Kubrick, who had McCall paint the advertising posters for his seminal 1968 science fiction film, 2001: A Space Odyssey.
“Perhaps his most famous piece, the six-story The Space Mural – A Cosmic View greets visitors to the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC. Painted over the course of eight months in 1976, McCall’s depiction of the creation of the universe leading to astronauts walking on the Moon is seen by an estimated ten million annually.
“Others of McCall’s large murals can be found at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, at the Dryden Flight Research Center in Lancaster, California, and at the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center in Hutchinson. A number of his paintings decorated the walls of the former Horizons pavilion at Walt Disney World Resort’s Epcot in Florida, and one remains on display at the entrance to the park’s iconic “Spaceship Earth” attraction.
“In 1981, McCall designed eight stamps celebrating STS-1, the first flight of the space shuttle. At mission commander John Young‘s request, McCall also designed the insignia that Young and Bob Crippen wore aboard Columbia for the two-day mission.
“It was through the stamps and patches that he created did McCall ultimately see his artwork merge with their subject matter and enter space. The Apollo 15 astronauts flew his “Decade of Achievement” two-stamp pane to the Moon, and the last men to walk on the lunar surface did so while wearing an Apollo 17 mission patch designed by McCall.
“McCall created patches for several shuttle crews, as well as the first to dock with Russia’s Mir space station. His most recent patch was designed for back-up spaceflight participant Barbara Barrett, a family friend, in 2009.
“Survived by his wife Louise, their two daughters Linda and Catherine and four grandchildren, McCall had high hopes for the future.
“’I think when we finally are living in space, as people will be doing soon, we’ll recognize a whole new freedom and ease of life,’ McCall was quoted as saying. ‘These space habitats will be more beautiful because we will plan and condition that beauty to suit our needs. I see a future that is very bright.’”