Born in 1919, Robert T. McCall would grow up to be one of the greatest  artists to capture the hope and vision of the future. Often Mr. McCall’s brightly lit and somewhat impressionistic style of painting would capture my imagination again and again. I found out today that he passed away.

Who is Robert McCall? What did he paint? If you’re asking these questions then I’ll ask you to Google his name and look at just at a single page of his work. I bet you this, you’ll recognize more than one piece. Why am I so certain? It wasn’t that he was simply prolific.  His art and concept paintings influenced so so many people and projects:  2001: A Space Odessy, Star Wars, the US Space Program, the US Air force and Disney. His art graced the pages of magazines where I can first remember seeing his art. Then there was his work for Star Wars. A year or so later, as a child I would see murals of his at EPCOT Center in Orlando. When I started collecting stamps with a space theme, there was his work again. His paintings of the Apollo program, then the Space Shuttle captured the brightness and hopefulness of the future. He continued painting images of America’s changing space program painting Space Station Freedom, eventually what became the ISS.  His style of bright colors made space look like a calidascope (which in reality, through Hubble, we would all learn how right he was).

Always within his paitings of space there were always the people.  He would capture all the technical details of a spacecraft but it’s the people and their emotion I remember the most. Like Norman Rockwell he captured a moment in his subjects eyes and facial expression of hope and purpose.  The one case that stands is contrast, as there is no face, just a face mask, is his incredible mural in the National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C.  The image of Apollo astronatus standing on the moon converys raw emotion all through body language and lighting.  A few years ago I was able to take my father and son there to see DC and this painting. That moment is captured and hangs on my den wall.

I’m not sure what the best compliment to pay an artist is. Certaily I would love to own his work but that’s not an economic reality. All I can say is that his art work inspired me and affected me when I was a child and still does all these years later. I’ve always wanted to live in his paintings, his visions. Maybe that’s  the best thing I could say of his work. Godspeed Robert McCall.

Other remembrances: