Space and Star Trek:TMP Artist Robert McCall Passes Away

Star Trek and the world of space has another loss this weekend. Artist Robert McCall passed away on Friday. McCall was an artist who spent his career envisioning the future for NASA and Hollywood, including Star Trek The Motion Picture.    

 

Space artist Robert McCall passes

Robert McCall is well known in space circles. He began painting the future at the dawn of the space program, and since that time his work has been seen in U.S. postage stamps, NASA mission patches, and murals (including the walls of the Smithsonian). Isaac Asimov once said of McCall that he was “nearest thing to an artist in residence from outer space." McCall passed away on Friday of a heart attack in Scottsdale, Arizona. He was 90.


Robert McCall in his AZ studio with "Exploring the Space Frontier" in 1988

McCall also did paintings for Hollywood, including the famous advertising posters for 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Black Hole, Tora! Tora! Tora! as well as work on Star Trek: The Motion Picture (see below).

Some of McCall’s work for Star Trek

Some of McCall’s work for NASA and 2001

You can learn much more about McCall, and see galleries of his work (including 10 Star Trek images) at mccallstudios.com. Also more on his passing at collectspace.com

 

 

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Robert McCall’s artistry was truly stunning and inspiring…I’m saddened that we will see no more visions from his brush… but his body of work he left behind is truly wonderful.

Locutus De La Borg

As with those artists, actors and many others involved with Star Trek who have passed away, his artwork will live on and continue to inspire generations for many years to come.

RIP

Pragmaticus

I hear from NBC that William Shatner will be participating in tonight’s Olympic closing ceremonies.

JIM

R.I.P.

MikeTen

I remember seeing Mr. McCall’s work in Starlog and Future magazines in the 1970’s and his images always had incredible detail.

Thank You Mr. McCall for being a bright spot in mine and others lives. RIP

CmdrR

Talk about iconic. Pan Am’s long since gone. The space wheel may never happen. And yet, that image is still a powerful pull to ‘the future.’

Truly, this was a generation of dream-makers.

Thomas Jensen

What a a great artist. My intro to him was through Star Trek. His vision will certainly live on.

Trekkie

Noticed a large painting of his at the Glendale, AZ library. Didn’t know he painted that iconic 2001 poster.

SciFiGuy

Wow. Sorry to see he’s passed. He was an outstanding artist. An iconic artist! The art from 2001: A Space Odyssey was my first realization that one could make a living from producing fantastic artwork for films. And it led me on to appreciate the works of Syd Meade, Ralph McQuarrie and all the others that have come since.

RIP, Mr. McCall and condolences to your surviving family — but your work will live on. What a legacy!

skip scott

The skies of Paradise Valley are raining teardrops down upon the many of us who loved and admired you.
Scotty and Skip

Xai

A wonderful “hero” shot of Big E. This is a truly a huge loss.

Sebastian

His artwork was so inspiring. I used to treasure my original, gatefold LP of the 2001 soundtrack, as it had his art on both the front and back covers.

When I was an art student in high school, I used to subconsciously mimic his style all of the time. Along with Ralph McQuarrie and the late Chesley Bonestell, Bob McCall was one of my favorite space artists.

I really hope someone plans a posthumous coffee table book of his artwork soon (as was done with Bonestell). It’d be a fitting tribute to his life’s work!

Rest in peace, Bob McCall.

cd

I always like the clear, bright style of his paintings. I followed one of the links here and saw him talking about his then 70 year career when he donated his artwork to the University of Arizona in 2007, still painting and still sharp as a tack. Very impressive. Rest In Peace.

ryanhuyton

Wow. I never even knew his name or what he did prior to the sad news.
Just goes to show that there are a lot of people who have worked on Star Trek and in Hollywood who don’t get as much recognition as they should.

Those paintings are really impressive. Robert McCall was a really talented guy. Another sad day. :-(

We’ve lost one of the great visionary futurists. With his art, McCall captured not only the technology, but the grandeur and sense of wonder that compels us to reach for the stars.

ryanhuyton

#15 Did you know him, Mike?

Unfortunately, I never met Bob McCall. The nearest I got was when I was asked to redesign the Mission Operations emblem that Bob McCall and Gene Kranz had designed back in the 1970s. I preserved as much of their original design as possible, while adding the International Space Station and NASA’s goals of returning to the Moon and reaching outward to Mars.

Jim Nightshade

Yes Robert McCall was one of the true artistic visionaries of our time-Hiss work has always been incredible-i dont remember what work he did for disneys the black hole-his art of vger actually shows a shape-a rarity–rip mr mccall you and your iconic art will be remembered forever!
Was that really Mr Okuda? If so kool!

Arcadia_69

One of my fave artist next to Ralph McQuarrie. Loved his stuff growing up and still do to this day – and will beyond! Not sure if he did the original concept art for BSG in the 70s? That might have been McQuarrie? Great article Anthony, and is nice to see a comment by the great Mike Okuda.

Fatman Bruno

I suspect that at the heart of the 2001 space wheel is the international space station, the human race like a virus has the ability to expand outwards, adding to itself step by step.
regarding the Star Trek poster, I like the blue energy that ripples from the Enterprises inner engines has she emerges from warp, thats pretty much how I imagined the ship was pushed along
congrats to my better half for giving me my own little JJ’s – Jacob and Jodie born on Saturday

Very talented man who created some iconic images. He will be missed.

TonyD

So sorry to be reading this. Mr. McCall was truly a visionary artist who’s influence helped to shape so many iconic movies. I’m lucky enough to own several of his prints (including some of his ST:TMP paintings in a Trek portfolio that was released some time ago) and his work on 2001: A Space Odyssey really transcended the medium. His art helped get me interested in science and science-fiction; he will be greatly missed.

crazydaystrom

Thank you Mr. McCall and rest in peace, sir.

kmart

18,
McCall’s work for THE BLACK HOLE was done when the project was still called SPACE PROBE ONE I think, probably while HELL HOUSE director John Hough was still assigned to direct, when it was evolving from being a post POSEIDON disaster flick in space towards … well, just the disaster it became.

He was actually being considered as something closer to a production designer than a concept artist for the film, intending to be involved in multiple aspects, before Peter Ellenshaw came out of retirement and sort of took over the look of the film. McCall’s ship art for the CYGNUS was kept in terms of silhouette, but in detail the ship was wholly altered (the exposed piping as opposed to the slab siding was all Ellenshaw.) Most of his concepts for robots and other ships were discarded.

12, There are already a couple of very good McCall coffee table books out, a smallish ART OF and another that I have someplace called VISIONS OF THE FUTURE or words to that effect, where it is Ben Bova text about science and a huge array of McCall artwork supporting and enhancing that (the latter volume has most of his TREK and TBH imagery.)

Along with John Berkey (also now dead), McCall really did a lot to define the spacegoing experience, in fact and fiction.

McQuarrie did the Galactica concept art but Bob McCall did similar work for the first, aborted Buck Rogers revamp. Some of his Buck Rogers designs were covered in Starlog #16.

Indeed, Bob did design work for the first Star Trek film, when he was brought in by Doug Trumbull to provide concepts for the interior of VGER. He also worked on a never produced TV version of War Of The Worlds, along with Matt Jeffries who also provided designs. That project would have been interesting because of the use of the Magicam process to insert live actors into miniature settings.

Of course, Bob also did the original Black Hole designs before Peter Ellenshaw took over as production designer. However, the basic shape of the Cygnus is McCalls, even though his design was sleeker and more 2001 inspired.

Finally, his poster work for 2001 really defined that movie for so many people. Beautiful work and a real legacy of space art that mirrored the space program.

On a related note, I purchased one of his space art books at a second hand book store without knowing that Mr. McCall had signed the inside cover, as well as providing a quick drawing of the earth and sun to go along with his signature. That’s something I’ll treasure for a very long time!

Truly talented. I remember first seeing that Nasa poster at one of my friends house and thought “WOW. Now that’s a great space poster”.

Also, that V’Ger vessel shadowing Earth would have scared the bajoolies out of me if I saw it as a kid.

How sad. Mr. McCall was an inspiration to my drawing days. His work exemplified adventure, wonder, exploration of the unknown, mystery and exhuberance.

I was first aware of his artwork at the time of 2001: A Space Odyssey’s release

Artists like McCall, Chesley Bonestell and Ralph McQuarrie inspired a generation of film, engineering and space artists.

Mr. McCall will sorely be missed.

Will Be Missed

Looking at the Vger concept drawing, I suspect there are more drawings for the film that have never been seen. Paramount needs to come out with a revised special edition of TMP to include more of the artwork and behind the scenes video. YouTube has what seems to be a short documentary on the movie that was released prior to the movie.

If any of you go to the Smithsonian’s Air & Space museum, in Washington, DC, there is a huge mural of the moon landing done by Bob. Standing in the middle of it makes you feel as if you could be on the moon. Its really good, as well as the rest of the museum. Boldly go.

I have one of his art books and I still look at it frequently. His work is just stunning and so optimistic in his style and color usage. He made space look truly like the ‘final frontier’. One of a kind.

kmart

29,
A lot of the TMP art is just plain gone. Mead did a vger-throwing-its-shawdow over the moon painting that he hasn’t seen since he drew it, and tons of Trumbull stuff from 2001 through BRAINSTORM got thrown away by a wife of his (plus Trumbull’s company, like Dykstra’s, eventually threw out a ton of TMP elements that Paramount wouldn’t pay to store during the early 80s.

Truly an inspiration to so many.

Eli

I still have a Trapper Keeper folder with some of his NASA artwork incorporated into it. Those big Mars landers look awesome! Too bad we can’t afford to build or launch ’em now…

Jim Ertel

A real great artist is gone, I will miss him.

Trekboi

very sad, wish i had met him.

But couldnt u guys have mentioned which gallery has the Star Trek Art…

Cosmo kid

Another sci-fi related passing in so many days. He was an extraordinary visionary. He will be missed. RIP Bob.

#19 – Anthony, thanks for posting this; I’ve been tied up with some other matters but am back now. I got to meet Bob McCall the first time back in 1974 when he was completing the NASM mural, working on a mighty big scaffold. I should have had my camera. :) I got to meet him through the efforts of Fred Durant, the astronautics curator at the time, and G. Harry Stine, who taught a zillion kids about model rocketry (I rode down to D.C. with Harry and his son from Connecticut). Bob was gracious and generous with his time and tolerance for many questions. I got to meet him again in 1978 after Harry and family had moved to Arizona, and we all sat about the Stine residence after Iguanacon talking about space and the future. The last time I saw Bob was Spacefest in Tuscon a couple of years ago; maybe twenty of us artists and science folks broke away for lunch. I didn’t know him that well, but was happy to have had those few brushes with greatness. The funny thing is that while I certainly admired his space and modern aviation art, I was totally knocked out by the enormous canvases he did for the movie Tora! Tora! Tora!; they were being shown in a N.Y. gallery near the theater. Bob has left us with a wonderful collection of paintings and drawings to enjoy and remember.

Jim Nightshade

Wow Rick, thanks for filling in some of info and details about you meeting Robert McCall…Awesome….also thanx to those who answered my questions about McCalls work for Black Hole–once you guys mentioned that I did have vague memories of seeing the earlier preproduction painting…in fact, in seattle at a Bon Marche store one of the stars of the movie, joe bottoms was appearing and I remember seeing huge awesome paintings of the ships and they didnt look like Ellenshaws work so I bet that was the McCall Paintings…it was just like you guys described less pipey but the same general shape and lots of silhouettes….I think Ellenshaw was a genius in his own right…for all the flaws Black Hole had the production design was mostly awesome and very original….The Cygnus and The Big E are two of my fave movie space ships….and I think probably the two most beautiful ship designs out there…

Plum

Thx Rick, as always.

Very sad news.

#38 – The weirdest thing I think I’ve ever experienced was working on THE BLACK HOLE and ST:TMP, because together, those two assignments feel like an alien experiment in time manipulation where the events are basically the same but some little things were different. I worked a few months on THE BLACK HOLE and saw Bob McCall’s amazing paintings and a roll of drawings of the Palomino, some robots, the Centaurus, and such. To prepare for our work on the film, they screened Star Wars and 2001 in one of the studio theaters. One weekend, all of Bob’s stuff had been spirited away; I had really wanted to study the art again come Monday. *Pop* forward six months or so. Working on TMP, we found piles of artwork by Ralph McQuarrie and Ken Adam in the art department, which was made to disappear over a weekend. When they asked us which movies we should watch to get inspired, Mike Minor and I said things like Destination Moon and Forbidden Planet, and they screened 2001 and Star Wars. Of course, Bob McCall and Syd Mead were doing wonderful TMP color paintings while we were sweating set graphics and engine stuff and bridge stuff, and I’m glad they did. When I got to do the space station painting in Captain Picard’s quarters, I did my best pale imitation of McCall’s style as a tribute. It was fun, but the temporal threads still feel weird.

A true visionary artist has passed.

To current designers and concept artists, look to the work of masters such as Robert McCall for inspiration and you’ll come up with something amazing.

The man may be gone but his work will always remain.

Anthony Thompson

Thanks AP and Rick Sternbach. I hadn’t known his name (ashamed to admit it), but his 2001 image was (and is) a huge inspiration for me. I hadn’t seen the TMP image before now but it is also outstanding. I echo those above who hope that a book of his life’s work is published.

I’ve been a professional artist for 25 years and McCall (among perhaps 3-4 others) were very influential growing up. I was fortunate to live in Nashville where the founder of NASFIC (Kenneth A Moore) was a space art collector and I was able to see a lot of paintings (by Bonestell, DiFate among others) up close and in person at Ken’s house. Later, I made a trip to the Smithsonian and got to see Ron Miller & Bob McCall’s work there, in-person.

He was truly a visionary. We are all in his debt!

(the below link shows some of my art, “sf” and other commercial)

Kev -1

Sorry to hear this. I knew he created the new Spock walk images through his art, and had seen his NASA work, but never realized he did the 2001 poster art as well. Inspired work all.

Tony Hardy

I had the extreme pleasure of speaking with Bob BcCall on the phone about 20 years ago. I was introduced to him by another friend, artist Ron Miller.

At the time, I was pitching a new “Making of 2001” book which never came to pass. Bob was very gracious with his time and was very excited about the proposed book project. He shared many memories of his experiences working with Stanley Kubrick including the first day he reported to work on the film. He was literally reliving it as he told me about it. His descriptions were very detailed, right down to what Stanley Kubrick was wearing on the day, plus the drawings and models that he saw in the Art Department, sets under construction, etc. All of that information was seared into his memory, and he was just as excited to have been able to work on the film as any of us would have been.

Unfortunately, I did not tape the conversation because I did not expect him to open up like that. It was just an introductory call, but he must have talked to me for a couple of hours. It was a real thrill and a privilege.

He was truely a GREAT artist and a GREAT human being. His work will live on…forever.

ryanhuyton

His early version of V’Ger in the second painting looks like a Species 8472 Bioship from “Voyager”.

And Rick, I’m sure I speak for most when I say you really should write a book. Maybe you and Mike Okuda can write one together. Would be a bestseller. :-)

Jim Nightshade

Wow Rick, that really must have been a strange experience for you working on both black hole n tmp at the same time–thanx again for sharing with us-i agree you could write one helluva great book on those times—funny they were screening the same movies for inspiration–black hole was mostly 20,000 leagues in space–disneys original movie in the 50s is also still one of my favorites-the design of the nautilus in that movie was stunningly original-

kmart

45,
Tony, you should tack down the guy who has been working on a ‘making of 2001’s vfx’ project for the last decade. He used to frequent modelbuilding forums (science fiction modeling part of hobbytalk.com as I recall), and he has really gone to town on interviewing surviving members of the team.

Cinefex magazine has a TON of unpublished stuff on the film … I went through about 800,000 words of transcripts and audio tapes from the late 70s/early80s when I worked there a decade back, and I cut it down to a 50,000 word rough draft, most of which was ‘new’ stuff. They wound up running an article that had very little of the ‘new’ and tons of the same-old, so there is a lot that remains ‘still a total mystery.’ They had talked to Ivor Powell and Les Novros and Zoran Perisic and Wally Veevers and a few others that were barely utilized, if at all.

#47 – Sorry if I left the impression that the work on the two films was at the same time; Disney stopped work on The Black Hole for a time and we were all let go, and I was called in to ST:TMP shortly thereafter. Thinking back, it was just amazing to me to find the McCall paintings and drawings for The Black Hole late in 1977, since I had known his work going back to 2001 in 1968, as well as the work he had done for the NASA Fine Art Program, -and- I had already met the man once at NASM.

Tony Hardy

I understand that there are one or two “2001” books in the works right now, one of which has the full support of the Kubrick estate. I’m hoping that Bob McCall’s work will be well represented.

Kubrick has files of pics and information that no one has really seen. You could probably create several books out of what he kept, and I understand that he pretty much kept everything.

Let’s hope that some “2001” McCall sketches and artwork will be uncovered that we haven’t seen before.