Robert McCall 1919-2010

Armand Cabrera
On February 26th 2010, noted artist Robert McCall passed away at age 90. A great advocate for mans expansion into space, he painted scenes of the future with not only technical accuracy for machinery but with an artist’s eye for color and drama.

His freelance work for Life magazine on the future of space exploration was noticed by NASA, which was starting to hire artists for a new program to document the agencies missions. McCall created mission patches for astronauts, including one for the last men to walk on the moon; many of his paintings hang in military buildings from the Pentagon to the Air Force Academy.  The mural he painted for the Smithsonian is viewed by ten million people a year. His mural for the Challenger Space Center rotunda in Peoria, AZ is six stories high and covers 27,000 square feet of wall space. McCall’s work for movies includes 2001: A Space Odyssey, Tora! Tora! Tora!, Star Trek: The Motion Picture and The Black Hole.
McCall’s depictions of space exploration transcend illustration. They are visual allegories for the triumph of the human spirit. You cannot look at a McCall painting or mural and not feel the sense of hope and joy for humanity and the universe we are in. His large paintings and murals are space exploration as religious experience. They are filled with modern iconography that fuses science with spiritual awakening. Astronauts become angels and space itself appears as godhead calling humanity.
On a personal note I would like to say how much of an influence he was on me as a young artist. I was a young boy during the space program in the sixties, and I was 13 when 2001 came out in theaters. While others painted sterile, cold and black air brushed scenes of space; McCall’s visions were rainbow filled starscapes of thick brushwork to delight the eyes and senses. His canvases were alive with the bustle of humanity. These scenes did not fit into the rut of space art and for me they were a revelation, space art was what you could make it, and if you were talented enough you could make it anything you wanted.
Robert McCall’s paintings are not just his vision of the future; they are also a challenge for us all to make the future a better place for mankind.

All images copyright Robert McCall or their respective owners.

6 thoughts on “Robert McCall 1919-2010

  1. Very nice tribute.

    McCall had a very nice, hopeful quality to his work, that seems a rarer and rarer thing these days. (Just when we need it most.)

    With so much dystopian literature out there, I love how McCall's future dares to have nice sunny days, and blue skies… just like it will.

    Thanks for the great blog,

    P.S. I can't find if you ever wrote that post about Fechin's painting class.

  2. Kev,

    Thanks and I agree with you about McCall. Unfortunately he is one of those artists that don't translate well to the small screen or page, you must see his work in person to feel its impact.

    Matt Innis beat me to the punch with his Fechin quotes and images so I didn't post mine, which were basically the same info from the
    1970's Balcomb book. Check out his great blog and fechin article here

  3. Nice job…I'll pass it along! I first remember McCall from a poster in my high school art class – very inspirational (as you know)!

  4. ARMAND…. Thanks for posting this. A great talent has surely passed on … you are a gifted writer and I really got a sense of his pictorial influence on how he impacted your vision of space .. its serendipitous how I just posted something of his work last week in connection with the Air Force Art Program.


  5. Frank,

    He had such a unique vision and his output was prodigious. On his website they are talking about a permanent home for his work where it will be on public display for all to see, it would be a fitting tribute to him and such a gift to us. Let's hope it happens.

  6. One of the best American space artist, often commissioned by NASA, whose work today look like sci-fi. He belongs to the hopeful generation of futurists, now labeled retro-futurists because that future never came, so far. It is now also considered “the second golden age of science fiction” 😉

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