BONESTELL, Chesley
(1888-1986)
   US astronomical illustrator. CB 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. He worked as a matte artist to produce special effects and background paintings for 14 films, including Citizen Kane (1941), DESTINATION MOON (1950), WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE (1951), WAR OF THE WORLDS (1953) and The CONQUEST OF SPACE (1955). In the early 1940s he began astronomical painting on a major scale, much of his work being used in Life magazine, and during 1949-72 completed astronomical artwork for 10 books, including the classic science-fact book The Conquest of Space (1949), with text by Willy LEY. In 1950-51 CB painted for the Boston Museum of Science a 10 x 40ft (about 3 x 12m) mural; it was transferred to the National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institution in 1976. His space paintings were used as cover illustrations for ASF (12 covers) and FSF (38 covers) from 1947 onwards; he became a favourite of sf fans in this period. His style was a photographic realism, showing great attention to correctness of perspective and scale in conformity with the scientific knowledge of the day, and some of his Moon paintings, for example, were truly prophetic in their accuracy. But, more than that, his work held great beauty and drama in its stillness and depth. Many book lovers of the post-WWII generation can trace back their fascination for space exploration as much to CB's paintings as to their reading of either science or sf. The recipient of many awards, he earned a Special Achievement HUGO in 1974.
   JG/PN

Science Fiction and Fantasy Encyclopedia. . 2011.

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