I grew up reading the "hard science fiction" of Isaac Asimov, Michael Crichton, and others, and it is sad to me that modern science fiction has degenerated into a strange kind of amalgam of fantasy, horror, and techno-gibberish. It had such a potential to inspire young people to dream, to strive, to learn, and to create great things in a bright, clean, glorious future. The demise of inspirational science fiction is all the more regretful, because technology is mostly absent from other forms of art. There are many beautiful and inspirational paintings out there, but how many of them have the physical works of man as their theme?
As much for my own enjoyment as anything else, I wanted to collect some paintings and pictures that celebrate the physical creations of mankind, and that may help to inspire young scientists and engineers, as science fiction helped to inspire me in earlier years.
The Golden Age
This isn't really science fiction, more like science past, but before I get to more sophisticated technology, I think it's worth noting some of civilization's past achievements, and the pride that was felt in them at the time, and the ways in which they were celebrated in art. Railroad art often provides a romantic view of past achievements, and the pride people felt in them at the time. Here are two works that I like by Grif Teller, and a poster by Leslie Ragan.
We used to dream of colonizing space, and people used to paint ways that it might happen. Here are two pictures by Don Davis and one by Rick Guidice of a Stanford Torus, which is a specific kind of spinning donut-shaped space habitat, which rotates to provide artificial gravity, has louvered mirrors to provide sunlight to the interior, and a central hub through which all transportation happens.
Another idea was for a giant spinning hollow sphere, with land lining the equator, and mirrors for shining sunlight in through the poles. This picture is by Rick Guidice.
Spheres and tori can spin, and so can cylinders. The particular conception shown below is known as an O'Neill cylinder. The cylinder is divided into six longitudinal strips, alternating between land and window. The windows are provided with mirrors, fixed at the end away from the sun and opening out at the end facing the sun, to reflect sunlight into the interior. Again, it spins around its axis to provide artificial gravity. I don't know who drew this picture.
The futuristic design and artwork of Syd Mead is less specifically focused on space colonization, but has no less attention to detail, and I enjoy it immensely. I haven't asked for permission to use any of his images, but I think I can show you miniature samples:
If you enjoy the same kind of art I do, you might also enjoy the "Space Art" of Chesley Bonestell and Don Dixon.
Finally, I love the art of contemporary painter Bryan Larsen. His work doesn't focus exclusively on science and technology, but many of his paintings do have a scientific or technological aspect to them. It's hard to pick favorites, but I especially enjoy "Heroes" and "I'll Be Outside".
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