In this era of space telescopes, satellites, and Photoshop, it’s easy to forget that only a few decades ago, we had no idea of what space actually looked like. The task of communicating the wonders of space was left to the dreamers and artists, and we depended on them to stir our imaginations and passion for the universe.
Men like Chesley Bonestell and Jack Coggins took paint to canvas and created worlds and vistas that existed at the limits of imagination. Some of their art was eerily prescient, some of it was dead wrong, and some of it seemed to make no sense whatsover. Occasionally space was presented as a terrifying place. Occasionally, it was presented with whimsy. Nevertheless, these artists were the first space explorers, and they don’t get enough credit for it. Their work influenced a generation of young children to grow up and become scientists, engineers, explorers, and dreamers.
This wonderful collection of pre-space age art was gleaned from children’s books going all the way back to the late 19th century. Take a look and see if any of these look familiar to you. Even I was able to find a bunch that I owned as a young spaceMonkey.
Donald Davis, an artist commissioned by NASA in the 1970s, has now graciously placed high resolution versions of his imaginative paintings into the public domain. Make sure you take a few quiet moments to peruse these as well.