A very welcome surprise to find this excellent documentary currently available on Amazon Prime. Anybody with a passing interest with art and science fiction and access to Prime would be advised to give this film a watch; its really quite amazing. It features the likes of Douglas Trumbull, Don Davis, Ben Burtt (and others like Ray Bradbury in archive interview footage), commenting upon Bonestell’s genius and visionary impact, and many examples of his remarkable paintings.
Bonestell lived a quite extraordinary life, one which will always be quite unique simply because of what he lived through and saw during a long life (born in January 1888, died June 1986). He experienced the San Francisco earthquake of 1906 and lived through two World Wars and all the technological advances of the 20th Century, from the Orville Wright first powered flight of 1903 to a manned landing on the moon and the first landers on Mars. The latter events, and the post WWII advances in rocketry that got us there, were obviously keenly important to him as he became known as the pioneer of what is generally called ‘Space Art’. Even people not too interested in art would have seen his work in film (matte paintings for films like Citizen Kane, no less, and design work etc for Destination Moon, When Worlds Collide and an indirect influence on Kubrick’s depiction of the moon in 2001: A Space Odyssey). When Bonestell’s usually surprisingly accurate guesswork and depictions of other worlds proved wide of the mark, as in his wonderful lunar landscapes, there is always a feeling that its reality’s fault for not measuring up to Bonestell’s art, not the other way around.
Bonestell’s paintings instead remain quite timeless and wonderfully evocative. I have a copy of Ron Miller’s excellent retrospective The Art of Chesley Bonestell but not at hand- alas I think its boxed up in the loft like so many other books. I shall have to make a point of digging it out sometime soon, it would be fascinating to read again having seen this documentary.