“The future is bright and filled with promise for us all. And the human spirit driven as it is, with an insatiable desire to know, to explore, and to understand will continue forever to reach up ward and outward.”
–Dr. Robert T. McCall
“I am living the future that I dreamed about when I was a young boy, and for me it is just as bright and wonderful as I imagined it would be. Many of the paintings in this collection are my current graphic thoughts about tomorrow.
One of the joys of being an artist is the freedom to create one’s own world, and through the use of brushes and paints, to explore that world and participate in adventures of the mind that the real world could not possibly provide. Like the real world, these excursions of the imagination are fraught with inaccuracies of perception-it is rare that one glimpses through the veil of time even a hint of tomorrow’s reality nor does it seem important to me, whether one’s perceptions are right or wrong-the pleasure is in making the predictions and doing the work.
Today we live a world filled with awesome possibilities, both good and bad. The rush of technology is so rapid, to stay abreast of it has become more and more difficult. Our understanding of the physical universe continues to grow and astonish us with its marvelous complexity.
To be an artist is these times of explosive change is, for me, a privilege and a challenge. My goal is to document in my drawings and paintings a small part of this changing world and to anticipate in my work, the future that lies ahead.”
Stargazing And Remembering Robert McCall
- McCall is a Founder of The American Society of Aviation Artists inducted into the Society of Illustrators “Hall of Fame”- New York, 1988
- Recipient of the “Yuri Gagarin Medal” from the Soviet Union, Russia, 1988
- The Honoree of the Scottsdale Memorial Honor Ball of 1989
- Robert T. McCall received an Honorary Doctor of Visual Arts Degree from Columbus College of Art and Design, 1998
- McCall was identified and honored as an “Arizona History Maker” in 1999
- Inducted into the Arizona Aviation Hall of Fame,” 2001
- Recipient of the “Elder Statesman of Aviation” Award from the National Aeronautic Association, 2002
- Honored in April 2003 by the Space Foundation with the “Douglas S. Morrow Public Outreach Award,” and identified by the Foundation as “The World’s Pre-eminent Space Artist”
- Recipient of the Arizona Governor’s Arts Award for 2005
- McCall has served on the Boards of:
– The Scottsdale Center for the Arts
– Astronomy of Arizona, University of Arizona, Tucson
– Arizona Science Center
- Appointed by the Governor, McCall is serving as a member of the Arizona Governor’s Space Commission
“Few have captured the American spirit of ingenuity, hope and imagination as eloquently as Robert McCall.”
–Robert N. Shelton, President, University of Arizona
The works of Robert McCall are a rich tapestry that encompasses more than just the history of space exploration and visions of the future.
McCall is a talent whose depth and richness of spirit are translated into a special invitation. His work invites one to ride on a spectrum of color, brilliance, and imagination-to become part of the twisting kaleidoscope that is our ever-expanding knowledge of the universe.
Robert McCall has done more than any other artist to enable Americans to visualize their nation’s presence in space. He has illustrated all of America ‘s finest moments, from the first manned space flight of Alan Shepard aboard Mercury 1 to Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the Moon; from the U.S.-Soviet joint Apollo-Soyuz mission to the most recent launches of the space shuttle. Ten million people a year admire his massive six-story-high mural in the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.; he has created stamps for the U.S. Postal Service that commemorate the space program.
McCall has documented the NASA space program for more than thirty-five years. NASA’s provision of this ‘front row seat’ has allowed him to personally witness mankind’s progress and turn it into the magnificent renderings that link us together as residents of Planet Earth.
In addition to being NASA’s visual historian, McCall has also sparked our collective imagination with regard to what may become our future history. Serving as conceptual artist for the entertainment industry, he worked on films such as Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, the Star Trek movies and Disney’s The Black Hole.
McCall is an optimist and dreamer, unrestrained by scale, unlimited by location, unconfined by the boundaries of what is known or what can be imagined. As one stands in awe of the visual poetry that is the art of Robert McCall it is apparent that this is a talent that competes with the scope of the subject itself.
Salute to a Legendary Space Artist
McCall Mourned by Aerospace Community
Robert McCall: Arizona Historymaker
Robert McCall's Biography
At first glance you might think he’s the local football coach: a burly, enthusiastic bear of a man who peppers his speech with “gee” and “golly” and exudes all the restless animated spirit of a grown Huck Finn. Yet if you watch him closely, if you study that expressive face, you see that there is a far look in his blue eyes, a gaze that sees into the future. At the easel, his expressiveness moves to the tips of his fingers. He falls silent. He stands before the easel or perches on a high stool for hours on end, as he paints.
On the canvas a new glimpse of tomorrow begins to take shape. All the enthusiasm and knowledge pent up in him takes the form of a picture of futuristic beauty where human beings are building a good new world for themselves.
If you are one of the he tens of millions who have visited the National Air and Space Museum in Washington , D.C. , you have seen the work of Robert T. McCall. His vast mural depicting man’s conquest of the Moon covers an entire wall on the Museum’s main floor, not far from the main entrance, where the Wright Brothers’ original flying machine is displayed alongside Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis, the Apollo 11 command module and a sliver of rock from the Moon.
If you saw the now-classic motion picture 2001: A Space Odyssey, chances are you were attracted to it by posters featuring the paintings of Robert T. McCall. His vision of the wheel-shaped space station and of space-suited astronauts on the Moon have adorned movie theaters and art museums around the world.
If you have ever bought U.S. postage stamps that feature a scene from the American space program, you have probably licked the back of a Robert T. McCall picture. He has chronicled the history of Apollo, the Apollo-Soyuz joint US-USSR mission of 1975, and the more recent Space Shuttle missions for the Postal Service. Some of his stamps have been to the Moon and back.
Like so many other men and women who find themselves not only fascinated by space exploration, but actively devoting their careers to it, Robert McCall first became interested in space flight and astronautics through reading science fiction.
He was born in Columbus , Ohio , in 1919, a Middle American from the heart of the nation. He graduated from high school and won a scholarship to the Columbus Fine Art School. Like many an American, he started working even before his schooling was finished. At the age of seventeen he took a job with a local sign shop, which made posters for streetcars and outdoor advertising billboards.
And he read science fiction magazines: Astounding Stories of Super Science, Amazing Stories, Startling, and Thrilling Wonder. The masthead Amazing proclaimed that the tales printed on its pulp pages were “Extravagant fiction today; cold fact tomorrow.” As true a prophecy as was ever made. The young Bob McCall also read Popular Science and National Geographic and other magazines about technology and exploration. Some magazines were bought at secondhand shops; others came from his grandfather’s collection.
“My grandfather was a typical country doctor,” McCall states fondly, “with some special distinction because he was a contributing editor for some years for the American Medical Journal. That’s a very unique distinction for an Ohio country doctor. He wrote many articles, and my father had stacks of the old journals. I can remember reading through those and going through the old medical books when I was eight, nine, ten years old.”
McCall’s father was a schoolteacher for most of his life “We grew up in very modest circumstances,” McCall says.
McCall knew he wanted to be an artist as early as the age of eight. Yet he had an intense interest in science and technology, as well. For a while the family cherished hopes that he would become a physician, like his grandfather. But by the time Bob was a teenager it was clear that his special talent was in drawing. “I would draw things that interested me. I loved to draw military subjects-conflict and battle. Knights and their armor had a special fascination for me then. Their goals were sort of similar to those of the astronauts’ adventuresome spirits.”
There were no astronauts when Bob McCall was a teenager, only tales of space adventures in, pulp magazines. But he remembers the first flying machines he ever saw, a group of biplanes that roared low over Columbus when he was about seven years old.
“Then we went to the Ohio State Fair and saw some old surplus World War I bombers. They were huge! Of course, by today’s standards they look like toys. But they looked enormous to me then. And the thing I liked about airplanes, in addition to the look of them, was the noise, It was a driving, powerful sound.”
He got his chance to hear the driving, powerful roar of aircraft engines over and over again when he joined the Army Air Corps during World War II. McCall was sent to Kirtland Field, just outside Albuquerque , New Mexico . The war ended before he could be sent overseas. But while in Albuquerque he met Louise Harrup, who was studying fine art at the University of New Mexico . They were married within a year, a marriage that has produced two daughters — Linda and Catherine — four grandchildren, and a beautiful house in Paradise Valley , Arizona , that is filled with paintings — both Bob’s and Louise’s. Her work has been displayed in collections throughout the country, and she has had a number of solo shows.
After the war, Bob and his bride went to Chicago , where he entered the demanding world of advertising art. His aim was to become a first-rank illustrator, like Norman Rockwell or N. C. Wyeth. “I knew that to be a top illustrator you had to finally end up in New York . So the first step for me was Chicago .”
Within three years McCall was ready for New York , and in 1949 he and Louise arrived there. Instead of concentrating on advertising art, however, Bob began painting magazine illustrations. He worked for Life, The Saturday Evening Post, and even his childhood favorite, Popular Science. Much of his work dealt with aviation.
In the 1950s the space program began. “To me,” he recalls, “that became the frontier of aviation.” Just as test pilots made the transition from jet planes to rocket-boosted spacecraft, so did painter Bob McCall. “It was visually dramatic” he says. “All of the buildup to a manned launch, so theatrical and dramatic. It really inspired me. And then, back to the sound again. The sound of a Saturn V launching is an awesome experience. The sound is just incredible!”
He got into the space program through an Air Force connection. In the mid-1950s the Air Force started inviting artists on trips to air bases and installations all over the world. There the artists made sketches, took photographs, and then returned to their studios to produce paintings that were annually presented to the Air Force at a special dinner. To Bob McCall, this was not only a chance to be with the men and machines he loved to draw, it was an opportunity to see the world. He visited the Louvre and the other great museums of Europe for the first time. He saw for himself the masterpieces of European art. “And I got to fly in all the aircraft,” he adds, with a boyish grin. “I’d go to great lengths to get permission to fly in the backseat of a jet fighter.”
In time, McCall donated some 45 paintings to the Air Force. They hang in the Pentagon, the Air Force Academy, and in air bases around the world. Others are part of a traveling exhibition, open to the public. When the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was formed, its administrators decided to initiate a similar art program. McCall was among the first to be invited to participate, along with some of the most well-known painters in the United States , such as Jamie Wyeth, Peter Hurd, Robert Rauschenberg, and Norman Rockwell.
For Bob McCall, NASA’s rockets and astronauts were love objects at first sight. He became an eyewitness to the space program, covering every major launch, frequently at his own expense because NASA could not extend an official invitation to the same painter every time. But Bob McCall was there, every time. He was with the astronauts when they laboriously wormed into their cumbersome space suits. He even tried the task himself, to see what it was like from the inside. He went up the gantry elevator with them and watched them clamber into their spacecraft. He stood in the control center during the countdown and sketched the final tense moments before launch. He even went out on an aircraft carrier to witness the recovery of astronauts from an ocean landing.
More than that. In addition to painting the story of America ‘s space program,
McCall began to paint the future.
It started with paintings he did for Life magazine in the early 1960s, depicting future spacecraft. It accelerated when Stanley Kubrick invited him to England to paint advertising posters for the film 2001: A Space Odyssey. There he met not only Kubrick, but Arthur C. Clarke, the writer whose work in science fiction and engineering technology had helped to create the space program and the first communications satellites.
McCall began to paint the future. Not merely the spacecraft of tomorrow, but the entire range of human experience in a future where we use our technology to build a life of abundance and adventure.
With enthusiasm, he says, “It’s fun dreaming up strange, out-of-this-world vehicles and environments. Through it all is a feeling of wonder and excitement about the universe, an overwhelming conviction that we’re not alone, that the universe is teeming with life and that we someday will make contact. It could be a thousand years from now or it could be tomorrow-or tonight.”
Reminded that most futurists and professional prognosticators forecast a good deal of gloom for the immediate future, McCall smiles and replies, “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. 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.
“Today my influences are more from the past than the present. I like realism in art. The reason I now paint the future almost exclusively, and document the space program, is that I am interested in science and technology and this accumulating, snowball effect of knowledge. It’s so dramatic to anticipate what’s ahead, and we are learning so much, so rapidly, and we are able to cope with it and deal with it and store it and retrieve it. We’ve already achieved such incredible successes that it seems that anything is possible.”
The uniqueness of Robert T. McCall’s vision of tomorrow is that what he sees with his inner eye he puts onto canvas in paintings that have all the sweep and power of a bold imagination, yet the detail and discipline to convince us that these futuristic scenes can be built by mortal hands.
Because of his talent we can see this future too: inspect it, enjoy it, and I resolve to help build it.
The Worlds of Robert McCall by Bruce Farr
The Worlds of Robert McCall
The famed Paradise Valley artist talks about his public life and private inspiration
Camelback Premiere Issue – October/November 2004
Story by Bruce Farr – Photography by N. Scott Trimble
Robert McCall lives in two worlds. The first – the one that brought him fame as an artist -is the rich, fertile world of his imagination. It’s inhabited by countless images painted on a lifetime’s worth of stretched canvases: interplanetary spacecraft hovering over distant, heavenly bodies; space-suited astronauts exploring new frontiers; sleek airships rocketing through untold galaxies; and military men and women poised in postures of heroic service.
In this highly animated world, McCall has spent most of his nearly 85 years reaching beyond our earthly boundaries to explore-through his art-the universe in all its imaginative possibilities. He sums it up as neatly as one of his brushstrokes: “My whole thrust as a human being and an artist is the excitement I feel for this snowballing technology that we’ve been embedded in for the past three or four decades. It’s part of the inspiration I have for being alive and it’s reflected in the paintings I do.”
McCall’s parallel world is the one that he inhabits as a husband, father, neighbor, and friend. From the sanctuary of a sunny hillside home in Paradise Valley, it’s the world that he and his wife Louise have lived in for the past 34 years-one in which they have served as generous volunteers and community patrons, where they dine in local restaurants, shop in nearby stores, entertain friends and relax on their patio, savoring the view. In short, it’s a world much like anyone else’s.
IN THE STUDIO
In the comfort of the spacious, light-drenched studio that adjoins his home, Robert McCall appears trim, tan and relaxed. From his robust appearance, it’s difficult to believe that this internationally renowned artist will celebrate his 85th birthday in December. As if to emphasize the fact, he casually swings his right leg over the armrest of an office chair and sits in that manner throughout a lengthy interview.
The setting is undeniably McCall: sturdy wooden easels with crank handles to lift and secure the oversize canvases that are his signature; white-paneled walls blanketed with massive, futuristic paintings; tins and jars of paints and brushes; a set of broad, art print filing cabinets; a telescope on a tripod; and, in one corner, the now-famous movie poster art from the classic Stanley Kubrick film, “2001: A Space Odyssey.”
SKATING IN COLUMBUS
McCall’s celebrated career had its early beginnings his birthplace of Columbus, Ohio. It was there, as a child, that he says he nourished his interest in art in the rare book room at the Carnegie Public Library. “They had these beautifully bound books by artists like Audubon,” he recalls. I could spend hours looking at page after page of these beautiful, hand-colored lithographs and illustrations.”
It wasn’t long before McCall began sketching from aspects of his own life. Drawing on his experience skating on ice covered ponds around the Columbus area, he began sketching ice skates. “I drew the blades and lacings of speed skates, figure skates-anything I could think of,” he says. Other inspiration came from the artists working in the books and magazines that he regularly absorbed. One in particular, N.C. Wyeth, was considered to be the premier illustrator of his day “He was a giant; the passion and drama that he developed in his work were just remarkable,” McCall says.
From there, McCall began a life-long fascination with painting armor-clad and uniformed knights and other heroic figures. “I drew their likenesses from the books of fairy tales that we had,” he remembers.
Then, on a family trip when he was a teenager, McCall visited the 1933 World’s Fair in Chicago. “I was blown away and just inspired by what I saw there, and the science that was galloping at that time,” he says. He later attended art school on a scholarship in that same city.
LIFE IN NEW YORK
From Chicago, McCall migrated to New York City where most of the magazines he was interested in doing work for-life, Popular Science, The Saturday Evening Post and Colliers-were published. Through the years, they became frequent vehicles for his increasingly sophisticated work. “One of the first jobs I got for Life was doing a series of illustrations of the events at Pearl Harbor. It was a real challenge and a fabulous opportunity” he says.
Out of this early experience, McCall says he found his true niche in painting imaginative, futuristic, technological subjects. “It really began with drawing ‘The Automobile of Tomorrow’ for Popular Science” he notes. “This became a very popular feature in the magazine.
After enlisting in the Army Air Corps where he served as a bombardier, he found – in aircraft – even more inspiration. “I loved every minute of it; flying in powerful machines thrilled me.”
If there was a defining moment in McCall’s experiences that he says absolutely shaped his artistic vision, it was when he began his association with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. “I became directly involved with NASA in 1956, when I met astronauts and visited actual launch sites” he says. As a member of the Society of Illustrators, McCall was given wide access to NASA, its plans and projects.
The experience provided him with background for some of the illustration work he was doing for the U.S. Air Force, as a civilian. “They were delighted to have members of the Society down at Cape Canaveral,” he says. “I did a lot of flying in the back seat of fighter aircraft. I just loved it.” With his increasingly impressive resume’, McCall ended up doing illustration work for big aerospace manufacturers, such as McDonnell-Douglas and Sperry. “For a time, because I was doing so much of it, I was considered to be one of the preeminent aviation artists,” he says.
PV “ON IMPULSE”
With much of his work in New York, McCall and his wife eventually settled in the upstate town of Chappaqua; but, after 15 years, they were ready for a move. In 1970, they visited Paradise Valley at the invitation of some New York friends who had relocated here. “Within three or four days, we saw the house we live in today and bought it on impulse. We’ve never regretted it,” he says.
Over the past few decades, McCall’s artistic output has been prolific. With permanent installations in many of the country’s best-known museums and science institutes, he has become one of the United States’ most recognized visual chroniclers of space-focused technology and its impact on our culture.
LIFE AT HOME
McCall says his wife Louise’s steady influence and good judgment have helped guide his success. When they met on a blind date, Louise was a 19-year-old art student in Albuquerque, N.M. Their mutual attraction was immediate and lasting. “She is probably the most significant thing that has ever occurred to me, and, after almost 60 years of marriage, there is no diminishing of that fact.”
A praiseworthy and prolific artist in her own right, Louise McCall works in a decidedly different niche than her husband. Her impressionistic portraits and paintings of flowers in vases brighten the spacious rooms in the McCalls’ lovely home. And, like her husband’s, Louise McCall’s work has become highly public. Several years ago the McCalls collaborated on a breath-taking stained glass project at their church, Valley Presbyterian in Scottsdale. The Reverend Dr. Larry Eaken, thc church’s associate pastor, says that their contribution has been inspirational for his congregation. “Bob and Louise’s work in our chapel has certainly provided a spiritually uplifting and joyous atmosphere for any of the numerous events held here,” he comments, adding, “Regardless of anyone’s religious persuasion, this is beautiful work that anyone can appreciate.” More recently, Louise completed a major installation for the new Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center at Scottsdale Healthcare.
These days, the McCalls are busy with plans for a new Phoenix-area museum that will showcase a large portion of McCall’s space-based art collection. The Robert McCall Museum is being planned as an 80.000 square-foot facility dedicated to space, space artistry and contemporary art, with more than 350 pieces documenting the history of space flight. “It’s one of our biggest endeavors-a place of inspiration for young people,” McCall says. The museum, which has a projected opening date of 2005, is tentatively planned to be located adjacent to the Challenger Space Science Center, in Peoria. There are also plans for it to contain a separate Smithsonian gallery showcase art treasures from America’s national museum.
Of course, the McCall’s socialize. “We get together with Hugh Downs and his wife, Ruth, from time to time,” McCall says. “Hugh’s a beloved friend of mine-such a gentle, kind, renaissance man. We seem to relate to the same things.”
Another close Friend and neighbor, Jan Evans, is the widow of Navy Captain Ron Evans, who was Command Module Pilot for the U.S. Apollo 17 space mission, which touched down on the moon in 1972. Ms. Evans recalls that she and her husband met the McCalls in 1967. “I just love 1 both of the McCalls. To me, Bob is a very forthright, giving and caring individual. He’s always just very helpful, and caring and very available.”
There’s little time for the McCalls to slow down, it seems. They just returned from a trip to Ireland and London with their two daughters and one of their grandsons in tow. From all indications, it appears that life – whether it’s in Paradise Valley or a galaxy far, far away – is very good.
The soaring imagination of Robert McCall by Miles O'Brien
Paradise Valley, Arizona (CNN) — Even if you haven’t heard of Robert McCall, you are still probably familiar with his work.
You will find his wide-eyed (and just plain wide) views of space — past, present and future — spanning the entry hall of the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum; at the Horizons pavilion at Disney’s EPCOT center; in old movie posters for “2001: A Space Odyssey,” or in a two-decade-long series of postage stamps depicting space themes (talk about pushing the envelope …).
No, Robert McCall may not be a household name, but his work has household familiarity. An art school graduate from Columbus, Ohio, with a lifelong fascination with things that fly, McCall has illustrated the reality and the dreams the space age since it all began more than 40 years ago.
I got the idea for doing a story on McCall during a visit to NASA Administrator Dan Goldin’s office. I was thinking of ways of telling the Apollo 11 anniversary story when I stumbled onto my inspiration. Prominently displayed just outside Goldin’s door is a McCall “Mars-scape” depicting astronauts at work on the red planet.
It is vintage McCall. The machinery is intriguing and detailed, the spacefarers seem as if they are part of a heraldic pageant (as a boy, he had a fascination with drawing knights in shining armor) and the terrain is rugged and sweeping.
Actually, those mountains are reminiscent of the range that lies outside McCall’s picture window (naturally) in his roomy studio at his home here. He says he moved to Arizona (from New York) in 1970 after a visit left him artistically inspired and personally enamored with the lifestyle.
Pass through the antique Mexican doors into the courtyard of McCall’s home, and you will be greeted by the other artist in this residence: Bob’s wife of more than 50 years, Louise.
While Bob’s head was up in the clouds (literally and figuratively) for most of his artistic career, Louise has remained well grounded (literally and figuratively). She is a painter of flowers — and a fine and prolific one at that. For years her career was overshadowed by Bob’s success and sidetracked by the demands of raising two daughters.
She served as an adviser and assistant to Bob as his career took flight. But it’s obvious what collaboration they are most proud of. We followed them down the road a few miles to see it — at their church (Valley Presbyterian).
When the congregation decided to add a small, chapel-in-the-round for smaller ceremonies a few years ago, they called upon this artistic pair in their midst to design the stained-glass windows. Standing in the middle of the chapel, the pair guided me through the work.
With a rising sun, a constellation of stars and planets and heavenly symbolism wrapping around above, and of course, some of Louise’s flowers rooted in the panes that rise from the floor, the McCalls’ beautiful glass tells a story of faith and hope and optimism. (See the accompanying IPIX image.)
Not long after it was finished, and not long after the Challenger disaster, the widow of the commander of the doomed flight, June Scobee visited here. After gazing into the glass and reflecting, she told the McCall’s she knew where her husband was. The McCalls’ eyes glisten as they recount the story.
We spent two marvelous days with the McCalls — seeing them at work — talking with them about life in general. They seemed like a young couple. It is hard to believe they are well into their 70s.
That’s what happens when you have — and share — a passion. You never really grow old.
The Cosmic World of Space Artist Robert McCall by Bob Shane - Airport Journal August '06
The Cosmic World of Space Artist Robert McCall
by Bob Shane – Airport Journal August ’06
The world of internationally renowned space artist Robert McCall knows no boundaries. Spanning the universe, both in time and distance, his artwork has chronicled the U.S. space program since inception and provided aerospace devotees an educated guess of what interplanetary space travel could look like in the future.
At 86, although he looks much younger, McCall is still driven by the same enthusiasm and vision that launched him into a lifelong career as a space artist, back in 1956, when he made the NASA connection. He continues to be optimistic about technology and the future, spreading a positive outlook that has never wavered, even in the wake of the Challenger disaster.
An Arizonan for the past 36 years, McCall’s canvases and illustrations, the trophies of a prolific life long career, adorn the walls of his studio and spacious home, built on a picturesque hillside in the upscale community of Paradise Valley. It’s in this sanctuary, which McCall shares with the other artist in the house, his wife Louise, that he does most of his painting. The couple met when she was a 19-year-old art student. They have been partners in art and happily married for 61 years. An accomplished artist, her impressionistic portraits and paintings of flowers brighten up many of the rooms in the McCall home.
Being an Arizona resident, it’s only fitting that McCall have a major work of art on local display. In downtown Phoenix, at the Industrial Commission Building, is McCall’s multi-story mural entitled “The Spirit of Arizona.” The panorama depicts the history of the state, past, present and future. McCall collaborated with his wife, who painted the beautiful wildflowers displayed in the foreground of the mural. This was McCall’s longest project; it took one and a half years to complete.
“Centennial of Flight”
In 2003, the nation celebrated the 100th anniversary of man’s first powered flight, made by the Wright brothers. When NASA commissioned McCall to paint the “Centennial of Flight” mural, he was ecstatic.
“When I received the commission, I thought, ‘This is just what I would love to do, more than anything. I want to make a painting that brings together all of my great passions as an artist and paint the subjects that have driven me intellectually and professionally for a lifetime,'” he recalled.
McCall immediately went to work gathering the requisite information, organizing it so that it would tell a logical story on a timeline that reads from left to right and chronicles the evolution of powered flight. In the center of the painting is the rising sun, with the Wright brothers’ first flight silhouetted against it.
“It’s symbolic of the rising future of aviation and all that it entails,” McCall said. “The Wright Flyer is so significant in the composition; it’s a detail and an element that the whole concept is built around. Dominating this panorama of action and activity and accomplishment and vehicles that have made history, it was important to point out that without the human element none of this could have happened. Thank God there are in this world those people with a spirit of adventure that just won’t be denied. People who are willing to risk everything to achieve certain goals; often they are worthy goals, because it allows the rest of humanity to follow them and gives courage to those that follow.”
In addition to the original 6-foot by 18-foot mural, which is on display at the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center in Edwards, Calif., McCall painted a two-foot by 6-foot master study. This finished piece of art contains many more aircraft than the NASA mural. It was difficult for McCall to leave out aircraft that were historically significant. This resulted in a feeling that the piece was esthetically too crowded. McCall was taught when he was very young, “Simplicity is the keynote to all great art.”
It’s the artist’s wish that the viewer of the mural feel, “Wow! Haven’t we done marvelous things and don’t they look marvelous?” He said the painting should “lift the spirit” and that he hopes that people, particularly young people, will be inspired by it. He wants the viewer to understand that his work of art is “a document of achievement that our nation can be proud of.”
Hearing McCall’s description of the mural, in his own words, provides a philosophical insight into the creative mind of a master painter and enhances one’s understanding and appreciation of a truly profound work of aviation art. McCall is a visionary whose prodigious imagination has been effectively captured in oils, acrylics and watercolors for more than half a century. The majority of his work is optimistic, celebrating the joy of living, man’s technological progress and the many wonders in nature.
McCall has a profound respect for nature. In his book, “The Art of Robert McCall,” published in 1992, he says, “I have the conviction that nature always is the master and that nature is so magnificent, so awesome in every aspect, that to even attempt to capture it in a painting is almost absurd. Nevertheless, we all try, we artists.”
The dawn of an art career
McCall was born in Columbus, Ohio, in 1919.
“I recognized I had a certain skill for drawing in elementary school,” he said. With his mother’s support, McCall decided “art was in the forefront of my intellect.”
His first painting, at age 15, for which he received compensation, was of an Irish setter he painted for his dentist. McCall did his first serious commercial work at age 16; he was paid $25 for the drawing of a water purification plant he did for an engineering firm.McCall also found he had an interest in science. In 1933, he attended the Chicago World’s Fair. He was inspired by what he saw there, which included aircraft displays.
Growing up in Columbus, Ohio, put him close to the city of Dayton. McCall remembers seeing lots of action in the sky, including airplanes being flown in mock combat demonstrations. He now had a passion for flight. So much so, he later enlisted in the Army Air Corps, where he became a bombardier on a B-29.
He attended the Columbus College of Art and Design on a scholarship and became a professional illustrator.
“I did anything that came my way,” he said.
He worked for Ziff Davis publishing and had Ford Motor Company for a client; his automotive art was used in magazine ads. He had many spreads in Newsweek and Time magazine and his illustrations could be found in Colliers, Popular Science and Field and Stream. He even did romantic illustrations for the Saturday Evening Post.
In those days, McCall’s artwork seemed to be everywhere. Then, in 1956, he went to work for Life magazine. This proved to be a defining event that would profoundly shape McCall’s future career as an artist. Life sent him to Washington D.C. and Cape Canaveral to cover the nation’s fledgling space program.
“My outstanding work was for Life magazine,” he said.
His entrée into NASA signaled the beginning of a lifelong career, documenting the space program using brushes and paints. NASA provided McCall with a front-row seat during all of the space launches, and McCall provided NASA with vivid renderings that captured the drama, action and brute force of its soaring rockets. His illustrations and paintings recorded it all, from Mercury to Gemini, to Apollo, to the space shuttle and the stars beyond.
When speaking of his art, McCall says, “My work is a vision of the future that I endeavor to graphically portray.” Isaac Asimov once described him as “the nearest thing to an artist in residence from outer space.” His images are said to celebrate the human spirit and man’s quest to explore and comprehend the vast universe in which he finds himself.
NASA space art
McCall’s “Opening the Space Frontier-The Next Giant Step,” is a sizeable 16-foot by 72-foot mural displayed at the Johnson Space Center. This 1979 painting depicts the first two decades of American space exploration, starting with Mercury and the first manned space flight of astronaut Alan Shepard on May 5, 1961, to the Gemini, Apollo and space shuttle programs that followed in the 1970s and 1980s. The mural includes a look into the future when permanently manned space stations will routinely orbit the earth.
McCall’s painting, “First Men on the Moon,” done in 1971, captures the moment on July 20, 1969, when Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin became the first humans to walk on the moon. In another mural, “Stairway of Humanity,” McCall collaborated with Andrei Sokolov, one of the Soviet Union’s most renowned space artists, to produce a 6′ x 9′ painting that recognizes the accomplishments of the first three decades of U.S./Soviet efforts in space.
There were both ups and downs in the space program. In 1981, McCall did an oil painting depicting the first successful launch of the Space Shuttle Columbia from the Kennedy Space Center, capturing all the fire and brimstone that such a launch entails. Then in 1987, he painted a commemorative piece on the last flight of Challenger, on Jan. 28, 1986.
Flight research has been a big part of NASA’s activities. In 1977, McCall painted his 10′ x 20′ mural, “The Spirit of Flight Research.” It was a graphic portrayal of experimental NASA aircraft, the space shuttle and its B-747 carrier, Chuck Yeager’s X-1, Glamorous Glennis, and the rocket-powered X-15, which advanced the speed record from Mach 3 to Mach 6.
In 1982, McCall put brush to canvas to create “The Spirit of NASA” for the Disney Corporation. On display at Epcot Center in Florida, it profiles the hundreds of support personnel, scientists and technicians and support aircraft that are essential to the success of every mission. It shows John Young and Robert Crippen preparing for the maiden flight of Columbia.
McCall’s canvases have captured the moment in every major space event, and his infinite vision and soaring imagination have provided us all with insightful views of man’s possible future in space. This seemingly endless stream of art has depicted everything from tomorrow’s weapons, such as a nuclear-powered beam weapon, striking targets from its orbital track high above the earth, to establishing an outpost on Mars. Other subjects include looking for primitive life forms in space; exploring the asteroid belt between Jupiter and Mars; and floating cities, where, by transcending gravity, we’ll be able to move the structure in which we live and work to any place desired.
Movies, stamps and mission emblems
Motion picture companies have commissioned McCall to produce concept drawings and paintings used to promote several feature films, including “Tora! Tora! Tora!” The artwork was used in promotional advertising for the film, which told the story of the attack on Pearl Harbor. All paintings were part of a major six-month exhibit at the Museum for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center in New York City. McCall was also commissioned to do promotional art for Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey,” “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” and Disney’s “The Black Hole.”
McCall designed 24 space-themed postage stamps for the U.S. Postal Service, two of which were cancelled on the moon. He also designed the mission emblem for the first space shuttle flight, STS-1.
Today, McCall remains very active; although admittedly slowed down a little, he continues to paint. His pet project is overseeing the construction of the Robert McCall Museum of Art, which will provide a showcase for his unique and very special space-oriented art collection. It’s very unusual for one artist to own and possess such a large number of his original paintings. The collection consists of nearly 500 pieces, one-third of which are framed. Additionally, there are numerous sketchbooks and drawings.
McCall is currently considering several possible sites in Phoenix and Tucson to build the museum. This world- class art collection will be a valuable educational and cultural addition to any community fortunate enough to receive it.
Robert McCall is undoubtedly the premier space artist of our time, and in many circles, already regarded as the “Father of Space Art.” For a man who has dedicated his career to documenting NASA and the nation’s space program, the museum will be a perfect legacy.
Saying Goodbye to a Good Friend by John Eaves
Robert McCall, Saying Goodbye to a Good Friend
by John Eaves
I just got word of Robert McCall’s passing yesterday and am so very sad to hear this news…I had been working on a special about Bob for the blog here and am sad I didn’t get it finished in time for him to see. Mr. McCall was 90 years old and painting away when he passed away last Friday, February 26th, 2010. Many of you know of Robert McCall, or if you don’t, I am sure you have at least seen his work. He was a legendary artist, and his work has covered a multitude of subject matters. At heart he was an astronaut, a pilot, and mostly a dreamer, with pencil and paintbrush as his means to take you to places far beyond the bounds of Earth. He was a visionary genius who’s strokes on the canvas took us to places where no man had gone before!! With his feet firmly planted on the ground, his imagination new nothing of shoes for his visions, always looking towards the heavens.
Bob’s work covered the world of aviation, from the big propeller driven planes to the supersonic hyper jets…from present day to historical space exploration and well into the future. He re-landscaped the state of Arizona in many futuristic styles with incredible imagination…He created some of the most beautiful stained glass windows for many of the churches around Phoenix; he also created massive murals for the Smithsonian, Edwards AFB and beyond. He created some of the most memorable art and designs for many motion pictures including the world of Star Trek. He created many mission patches, as well as stamps for the US post office. Mr. McCall’s work has no bounds, and he has done something for just about everything. He was a true gentleman at heart with an endless imagination. He was a loving husband and father, and he was a friend to everyone. To me, he was my first artistic hero and for the last 13 years or so had become a very good friend.
As a young boy growing up in Arizona in the 60’s, I was captivated by aviation and especially by all the Gemini and Apollo missions taking us to the moon!!! My whole world revolved around these things, and in early 1973 my mom had found a painting of a new NASA project called Skylab. The painting was by an artist named Robert McCall, and I was glued to that picture for weeks!!! I would try and draw it myself using Bob’s painting as a guide. That little painting hung on my wall right next to my Apollo 17 mission patch that was also drawn by McCall. My parents subscribed to “Arizona Highways” magazine, and it showcased everything beautiful about Arizona and it’s people in pictures. I remember getting the mail in August of 1975 and the new AZ Highways was in amongst the other letters; on the cover was this beautiful wrap around painting of a Chromed city situated in the AZ desert. Wow, I thought, “This is really cool.” Looking through the pages, it was filled with fantastic art depicting solar cities and fantastic craft floating around the state. The back of the mag was covered with some incredible space craft paintings and even the Apollo Soyuz stamps that McCall had drawn. I looked at these drawings for months with such fascination. Again, I had my tablet out and tried to draw these incredible things that graced the many pages that lie in front of me. I took the mag to school and showed it to everyone I knew. I showed my science teacher, Mr. Chuck Bell, and he became one of the most influential teachers in pushing me to become an artist. Always with an encouraging word and giving me extra art assignments using McCall as my guide, he would take the finished art and showcase it on the wall behind his desk. Outside of my parents, Mr. Bell was the first adult that took that that little extra time to encourage me on my way. He is a great man and I owe him a great amount of thanks.
About this same time I got my first turntable and my dad bought me the soundtrack of the movie Jaws and the movie 2001. Holy cow, the art on the 2001 album was by McCall, and again I couldn’t put the jacket down. Far more detailed than what I had seen of his work in earlier years, the details were mesmerizing, and the way he used the lighting and the thick heavy shadows was awesome. What I thought was so creative with his 2001 work was that he only showed you part of the ships. Most of the craft would be off the canvas, thus making things seem far too massive to fit all on one page. His work was magical, and he depicted weight and mass combined with light in shadow with such grace and elegance. The “Arizona Highways” mag had got me drawing everything in McCall style.
A few years later, Star Wars & Close Encounters came out and started the big theatrical run of everything Sci Fi. During that fantastic movie run, one of the big anticipated films to come was Star Trek: The Motion Picture. “Starlog” magazine was the big source of sci-fi info back in the 70’s, and when ever possible they would show what ever they could of what was coming next. It would usually be some artwork or a teaser picture, but for Trek they showed some of McCall’s production paintings for the flying through Vger segment. WOW!!! Bob’s work is a part of STAR TREK!!! I wanted to see it even more just because of his involvement. After seeing the film and now 30 years later that sequence is still one of my favorite parts of the film. All of Bob’s creative imagery combined with that incredible Jerry Goldsmith score made for one amazing moment in motion picture history!!! Just a few short weeks after Star Trek was released, Bob’s work would be seen again, but this time as the principle designer for Walt Disney’s The Black Hole. Mr. McCall designed the Cygnus for the film which, in his original designs, was a ship composed of solid panels and high towers. As the film’s designs progressed, Bob’s profile of the ship stayed the same, but the outer look turned into a series of beautiful and intricate framing and piped under-structures. For the look of the filming miniature, the vessel was lit from within and gave it a very haunting look and feel against the deep space backgrounds. The Cygnus was one awesome ship and is one that adds to a very vast body of work for McCall.
Time rolls on and Arizona Highways & Starlog keep Bob’s work and what his projects are up to date. Moving away from the film industry he continued on with his space work for NASA and many museums and AFB’s around the country. In the 90’s a great many art books are published on Bob’s work. Thanks to Mr. McCall’s influence and inspiration, I was at that time celebrating my 10th anniversary of working in the movies as an artist. It’s 1995 and I had had Robert McCall’s phone number for years but was too nervous to call. All of the gang in the Star Trek art department were fellow fans of McCall, the Okudas, Jim Van Over, Anthony Fredrickson, and especially Doug Drexler. It was Christmas break from Star Trek, and I was on my way home to see my parents. One fine December day I worked up the courage to call, and he answered the phone. What an awesome moment!!! After a brief conversation, he invited me over to his place!!! I had just finished the preliminary designs for the Enterprise-E and had made a copy of it, as well as a bunch of other artwork, as a gift of thanks. Bob’s house was nestled in the hills of Scottsdale, and he and his wife, Louise, met me at the door. Louise is an artist as well, and flowers are her forte. She has such a beautiful style to her work, and she makes prints and cards of her creations. Bob’s art room was a big open area with big flat cabinets holding generations of work, as well as many big pieces hanging around the room. The first piece to catch my eye was a painting of the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. It was a huge painting, and Bob went on to say it was one of 8 paintings he did for the movie Tora, Tora, Tora. I had no idea that he had worked on that classic motion picture. We had a great afternoon, and Bob and Louise were extremely gracious; It seemed like we we had been friends for years. Bob signed three of his books for me, as well as a print from Star Trek, and Louise gave me a pack of her flower prints. It’s not every day you get to meet someone you admire, and in the movie industry disappointment is usually what follows, but as for meeting the McCalls, it was the start of a great friendship. We kept in touch throughout the years and would visit often when I was in town. Robert’s daughter runs his website and does one mighty fine job, so be sure to follow the link below and spend some time looking and reading all of the incredible stuff there.
We will miss you dearly Robert…and to Louise and your kids and your grandkids, I send my very best and prayers as well.
The New York Times: Robert T. McCall, Space Artist, Dies at 90 By Douglas Martin
Robert T. McCall, Space Artist, Dies at 90
By Douglas Martin
The New York Times
Robert T. McCall, an artist whose fervor for space exploration found expression in his six-story-tall mural at the National Air and Space Museum and two postage stamps canceled on the Moon, died on Feb. 26 in Scottsdale, Ariz. He was 90.
The cause was heart failure, his wife, Louise, said.
Mr. McCall eagerly translated his youthful enthusiasm for drawing knights in shining armor on spirited steeds into paintings of intrepid astronauts in gleaming space vehicles, both real and imagined. When NASA in 1962 hit on the idea of enlisting artists to promote its mission, Mr. McCall was one of the first three chosen.
He went on to create hundreds of vivid paintings, from representations of gleaming spaceships to futuristic dream cities where shopping centers float in space. His most famous image may be the gargantuan mural, showing events from the creation of the universe to men walking on the Moon, on the south lobby wall of the National Air and Space Museum on the National Mall in Washington. More than 10 million people a year pass it.
Then there are the mission patches he made for astronauts, including one for the last men to walk on the Moon; the many paintings that hang in military buildings from the Pentagon to the Air Force Academy; and the enormous mural at the Johnson Space Center in Houston showing the progression of the American space program, from the first Mercury missions to the space shuttle.
He also designed more than a dozen stamps for the United States Postal Service, and a set was ceremoniously canceled on the lunar surface by David Scott, commander of the Apollo 15 mission.
H. Lester Cooke, former curator of painting at the National Gallery of Art, once noted that Mr. McCall had “the quality and scope of imagination to travel in space, and carry us along with him.” Isaac Asimov was widely quoted as calling Mr. McCall “the nearest thing we have to an artist in residence in outer space.”
Robert Theodore McCall was born in Columbus, Ohio, on Dec. 23, 1919. He grew up fascinated with airplanes and looking at Moon craters through a telescope, but the first painting he sold was of a dentist’s dog. He was paid $10 for it. He studied at an art school in Columbus and served in the Army Air Forces during World War II as a bombardier instructor.
He worked in Chicago and New York illustrating advertisements and magazine articles, including science fiction in pulp magazines. In 1957 he went to Cape Canaveral in Florida to paint at the request of the Air Force.
His freelance work for Life magazine on the future of space exploration captivated NASA, which was starting to hire artists to add flair and emotional depth to portrayals of its work.
The other two artists NASA first approached were Mitchell Jamieson, a well-known illustrator who had worked with the Navy, and Andrew Wyeth, whom a poll had designated “America’s most popular painter.” Mr. Jamieson accepted, but Mr. Wyeth ultimately declined.
As the program grew, more venturesome and abstract artists were added to the realists first commissioned, including Robert Rauschenberg. Other artists in the program included Andy Warhol, Norman Rockwell and the photographer Annie Leibovitz.
Though his illustrations of manned space flight include Alan Shepard’s first Mercury mission, Mr. McCall did not attend a launch until Gordon Cooper blasted off in May 1963. In an interview with Smithsonian magazine in 1984, Mr. McCall described the exquisite tension of riding an open-cage elevator to the space capsule with Cooper.
“You get in the habit of wanting these experiences,” he said, saying he imagined himself in Cooper’s shoes. Mr. McCall went on to witness more than 25 additional launches, including most trips to the Moon and most space shuttle missions.
In addition to his wife of 64 years, the former Louise Harrap, Mr. McCall is survived by their daughters, Linda and Catherine McCall; five grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.
Mr. McCall’s great disappointment was that he never made it to space himself. When NASA began a program to take people from other professions on shuttle missions, he was on the list.
But after Christa McAuliffe, a teacher, died when the space shuttle Challenger exploded on Jan. 28, 1986, that program was ended.
Space Artist Robert McCall by Megan Gambino SMITHSONIAN.COM
Space Artist Robert McCall
Just inside the entrance to the National Air and Space Museum is a multi-story mural. In its center, a fully suited Apollo astronaut gazes out at museum-goers, lunar dust suspended in the air around his boots. To the astronaut’s left, is the artist’s swirling depiction of the Big Bang Theory on the creation of the universe. And to his right, is a lunar rover and the Apollo lunar lander, its gold foil glimmering.
The sprawling mural is a preview to what awaits. Peer around the corner and you’ll see an actual Apollo lunar module. Visit the Apollo to the Moon gallery and you’ll see the original space suits worn by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the Moon.
“The Space Mural – A Cosmic View,” as the painting’s called, has become an important piece in the museum, and its maker Robert McCall, one of the world’s best space artists. But the sad news of McCall’s death is spreading throughout the air and space community. Last Friday, the 90-year-old artist suffered a fatal heart attack in Scottsdale, Arizona.
McCall’s career really kicked off in the 1960s, when he illustrated for the Saturday Evening Pos t, Life and Popular Science. His interest in space came from an early interest in science fiction. (I bet he was pleased when sci-fi author Isaac Asimov once described him as the “nearest thing to an artist in residence from outer space.”) And one of his most visible projects might have been the advertising posters he created for director Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 cult classic “2001: A Space Odyssey.”
McCall attended every major shuttle space launch for decades and was praised for his futuristic views of space, and how they pushed space exploration forward. In his 60-year career, the prolific artist produced more than 400 paintings. He had such wide range as an artist—making everything from patches worn by astronauts and 21 space-related postage stamps, to the six-story mural at the Air and Space museum, which he painted over the course of eight months in 1976.
Margaret Weitekamp, curator in the museum’s space history division, was able to show me the proposal for the mural that McCall submitted to the museum in 1975. The document provided some insight into McCall’s intentions. In it, he wrote that the goal of his “Space Mural” is “to inspire in those who view it, a sense of awe in the majesty of the universe, a feeling of pride in man’s achievements in space, and a profound optimism about the future.”
According to Weitekamp, the mural continues to meet McCall’s measures for success. “There’s such life to it. It’s so dynamic and colorful,” says the curator. “He was famous for having these highly imaginative canvases but then also for getting all of the technical details right, which does a space history curator’s heart good. I really hope that it gives visitors some sense of what we do here at the museum, of that scope of space history and the hopes for the future.”
“Artists throughout history have been called on to make visual records of great events, and yet very few have been eyewitnesses of the events they portrayed; no artists accompanied Columbus or Marco Polo, none were present at the Crucifixion. NASA’s space program has been an exception to this rule. Since the programmers could pinpoint to within a split second when a major event would take place, it was possible to give the artist a ringside seat on history in the making. The NASA space program also had the great good fortune to have precisely the right person available to make this unique documentation. Robert McCall was a flyer with the Army Air Force in World War II, and in the years later had made a specialty of illustrating air-space themes. He was in charge of the Air Force’s Art program for a number of years, and his imagination and technically precise illustrations were known to millions through the pages of LIFE, TIME and scores of other illustrated periodicals.
When officials at NASA decided in 1962 that only the artist could add a new dimension to our understanding of the epoch-making events of man’s first steps into the great beyond, Robert McCall was a logical choice to be one of the handful of original artists commissioned for this task. When the last Mercury one-man space craft was launched from Cape Kennedy in 1963, Robert McCall was up in the gantry making on-the-spot sketches of Gordon Cooper being bolted into his fragile nose cone. When the gantry was moved back from the rocket just prior to launching, McCall was still on top of the gantry – dashing off page after page of ink drawings. Today, these on-the-spot drawings form a priceless archive of one of the great moments in history. Again and again, McCall, often at his own expense and taking precious time from patrons clambering for his services, went to Cape Kennedy, or the aircraft carrier in the Pacific, or Mission Control in Houston, in order to cover at first hand every phase of the space program.
Today, McCall stands at the head of his profession. He combines the three elements necessary to achieve and remain in this position. First, he has a profound respect for the facts of space technology. Aeronautical engineers admire his work as much as art editors. He may be in outer space but his feet are on the ground, technically speaking. A surprising number of space projects have ended up looking very much as McCall predicted they would look many years in advance. Second, he has the quality and scope of imagination to travel in space, and carry us, the spectators, along with him in full confidence that we are in the hands of a competent guide. Many of his pictures portray events which man never could see or photograph and which, without his talents, would remain in the realm of words, mathematical formulae and taped electronic signals. Last and most important, he is a first rate artist with a perfectionist’s respect for the craft of his profession.”
–Hereward Lester Cooke, Jr. Ph.D.
Curator of Painting
The National Gallery of Art
“McCall’s paintings, like great symphonies, are both thunderous and lyrical. When I look at a McCall painting or mural, it arrests my attention for an inordinate amount of time, perhaps because of the vastness of time and distance so powerfully portrayed. Here is a collection for all eons.”
— Hugh Downs
“Bob McCall is not only the foremost aerospace artist in the United States, but he is a true friend of those of us operating the space shuttle. His work captures the spirit of our endeavors.”
– Robert L. Crippen, space shuttle pilot
“Robert McCall is the nearest thing we have to an artist-in-residence in outer space.”
— Isaac Asimov
“Robert McCall has chronicled, through his art, the dawning age of manned space flight. His work is renowned not only in this country, but in every corner of the world where men and women have shared the thrill of America’s triumphs in space, for these are not the triumphs of Americans alone, but of all mankind.”
— Christopher C. Kraft, Jr., former director, Johnson Space Center
“As no other artist has done, McCall captures the essence of life in space, rather than just space itself. I like Bob’s uplifting vision of the future, full of optimism as mankind presses out into the universe.”
— Michael Collins, Apollo 11
“the reigning space artist in the United States, perhaps the world.”
— Air and Space magazine
My name is David Tress and as of this past weekend I am an alumni of the Columbus College of Art and Design. Robert McCall was our inspiring graduation speaker this weekend and I just wanted to thank him for coming to address the class. I would particularly like to mention that after the ceremony my father was a little choked up to tell me of his admiration of Mr. McCall over the years. My father who is now 59 said how since he was in Jr. High he had always been a huge fan of Mr. McCall’s work. He said that anytime he sees a science fiction illustration he always checks to see if it was by Mr. McCall, and that he has been his favorite artist.
However, it wasn’t until this weekend that he found out that his favorite artist was an alumni of the very school that he had sent me to for the past four years. It’s somewhat of a rarity for my father to express much interest or emotion over much.
Again, I would just like to thank Mr. McCall for his words to my class and more importantly, for being a lifelong inspiration for my father.
David Tress, CCAD 2006
In July of 2001 I had the pleasure of meeting and speaking with renowned space artist Robert T. McCall at the San Jose Tech Museum during the 2001: Destination Space Exhibit. This was exactly 33 years to the week after being visually stunned by viewing 2001: a space odyssey on an enormous curved Cinerama screen for the first of many times. Along with numerous set items from that film, including some of my original film posters, were over 70 paintings by McCall on display with brilliant colors, concepts and visions illustrating his unfettered sense of optimism and vast potential of the human spirit.
Many authors have mentioned that McCall resembles a high school football coach, and for one who played six years in junior high and high school, that comment is certainly quite accurate. Behind that Midwestern exterior is a sincere and truly honest gentleman who has created the finest images, both fact-based and fictional, of the use of science and technology to benefit all humanity.
The media is filled, however, with seemingly never-ending pointless stories of banal politicians, talentless actors, famous for one year pop stars, and other inconsequential societal sponges who contribute absolutely nothing positive to the world. Considering the amount of air time that these nominal individuals receive, one begins to sense that this type of news is what people actually clamor for in their daily lives.
But Robert T. McCall is part of that special group of people who have literally reached for the stars. For those of us who just know better and have an appreciation of true artistry in all its mediums, we know in our own lives that these individuals – talented artists, designers, writers, filmmakers and many others have contributed much more to society and humanity than even we can imagine.
–Mark E. Blunck – Modern Collector