Space Illustrator Robert McCall Dies at 90


Touted by none other than Isaac Asimov as “nearest thing to an artist in residence from outer space,” illustrator Robert McCall visualized the mid-century age of space exploration. McCall, who died at age 90 at his home in Arizona, is best known for his work on the poster for Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey, as well as the six-story mural in the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum in Washington, DC. A motherlode of McCall images after the jump.

Artwork for the Kubrick-directed film 2001: A Space Odyssey.

McCall’s illustrations are wondrous from one extreme (scope) to the other (detail). His inventive renderings of what space would look like in the future were informed partly on his access to NASA, granted by his entry into the civilian space agency’s art program alongside the likes of Norman Rockwell and others. As reported on CollectSPACE, “In attendance at every major launch, McCall became an eyewitness to the U.S. space program, following the astronauts through their flight preparations and missions.”

McCall has previously served in the US Armed Forces, later working as an advertising artist before becoming a magazine illustrator for the Saturday Evening Post, LIFE, and Popular Science.

Space Station of the Future (1961): “This is from the April 21, 1961 issue of LIFE magazine. Most of the issue is devoted to Yuri Gagarin, who had just returned to earth, and Americans (judging from the tone of the articles) were FREAKING OUT that the Soviets had beaten them to space. Much of the issue reads like a study of a national identity crisis. So, LIFE tried to pick up everyone’s spirits by running a few drawings of what OUR spaceships would look like, if we ever got around to building any.”

A conceptual example of a solar sail from the same 1961 issue of LIFE magazine.

“An Aerospace Cop to Help Police the Beat” from LIFE magazine, 1061.

Megastructure of the 21st Century.

General Electric Defense Electronics Division, 1959

Assorted illustrations for other spaceship concepts.

For more outlandish space adventures, view McCall’s entire online museum here.