Obituary you missed: Robert T. McCall, space artist
Robert T. McCall, a painter whose work is displayed prominently in a museum that gets more visitors than any art museum in the world died late last month, but we wouldn’t have known it from most obituary pages.
His most famous image may be the gargantuan mural, showing events from the creation of the universe to men walking on the Moon, on the south lobby wall of the National Air and Space Museum on the National Mall in Washington. More than 10 million people a year pass it.
To put that in perspective, the most visited art museum in the world, the Louvre in Paris, draws 8.5 million visitors per year. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, in New York, draws close to 5 million. And McCall’s painting could not be more prominently displayed. Of course, it competes for attention with rockets, airplanes and space capsules.
McCall wasn’t shooting for big numbers when he painted. He was engaging his passion, as the Times article points out.
Mr. McCall eagerly translated his youthful enthusiasm for drawing knights in shining armor on spirited steeds into paintings of intrepid astronauts in gleaming space vehicles, both real and imagined. When NASA in 1962 hit on the idea of enlisting artists to promote its mission, Mr. McCall was one of the first three chosen.
Other artists joined later.
As the program grew, more venturesome and abstract artists were added to the realists first commissioned, including Robert Rauschenberg. Other artists in the program included Andy Warhol, Norman Rockwell and the photographer Annie Leibovitz.