Pictures Of Inspiration: Stellar Radiance by David A Hardy: by Rod MacDonald (article).

March 1, 2015 | By | Reply More

Uncle Geoff’s favourite Science Fiction photograph is of Thunderbird 2 landing at London airport. http://sfcrowsnest.org.uk/my-favourite-photograph-thunderbird-2-landing-at-london-airport-hopefully-one-of-a-series-by-gf-willmetts-article/  I could nominate several photographs but what comes to mind for me is a painting called ‘Stellar Radiance’ by the artist, David A Hardy, which I saw in an art shop situated in the Tollcross area of Edinburgh some 45 years ago. It was a rainy miserable day in November with no sun in the sky but there in the shop window was a magnificent red giant star, an impression of a hypothetical planet orbiting Alpha Herculis. It was a stunning painting and, quite frankly, I hadn’t seen anything like it before.

StellarRadiance-Hardy

Astronomy had been an interest since the age of 10 and anything connected to space and science was avidly studied, especially the concept of planets orbiting other stars out there in the galaxy. At that time, in 1970, we had no idea of the existence of extra-solar planets and though there were a few tentative possibilities, nothing concrete existed. It was open to the imagination to speculate on what might exist in the cosmos and all the better if it seemed to be based on reasonable scientific probabilities. I was also a bit of an amateur artist so here was another avenue of inspiration, giving me the impetus to paint something like that myself.

I didn’t buy the framed print because it was priced at £12. I was 18 at the time and a first-year student plodding away at chemistry and money wasn’t forthcoming. Although £12 doesn’t seem much by today’s standards, back in 1970 you could go out on the town with £1, buy 5 pints of beer, 20 cigarettes and still have enough for fish and chips on the way back. I had a summer job that year in a graveyard, I think the wages were £8 7s 6d per week and an established worker didn’t really earn much more. £12 represented a lot of money so I had to let it go.

The art shop was on one of my daily routes and, each time I passed by, I would look in to see ‘Stellar Radiance’ still shining in the front of the window. It was a tantalising object and the fact that I couldn’t afford it made matters even worse but one day, a week before Christmas, it disappeared from view. I enquired within thinking maybe it hadn’t been sold and I could get it for a knockdown price but the owner assured me it had been purchased and it was in fact a very popular print, selling quite well all over the country.

I later discovered that the original ‘Stellar Radiance’ was painted in acrylics on canvas, 36″ x 20″, and published by a company called Rosenstiels who deal in fine art prints. In 1970, the painting made it to number six in the Top 10 Prints and apparently no other example of astro-art has performed as well ever since. The print is no longer available but there is some confusion in that several companies offer another print called ‘Stellar Radiance’ which is in fact Red Desert depicting a sandstorm on Mars. This mistake hasn’t been corrected by the companies and neither has his professional name to David A Hardy instead of David Hardy. However, it’s possible to get copies of the print on his website, www.astroart.org,  along with many other stunning examples of astronomical and space art.

The name of David A. Hardy kept cropping up, in publications of the British Interplanetary Society for example and also a host of other books some in conjunction with Patrick Moore. Other space artists come to mind such as Chesley Bonestell, Ron Miller and Kim Poor, all of whom created wonderful scenes of space exploration and the cosmos. One of Chesley’s works, the planet Saturn as viewed from Titan, has become a well-known masterpiece. However, David A Hardy, who was born in 1936, is still at the forefront of astronomical art. He painted scenes of lunar missions long before Apollo and went on to illustrate the findings of the Kepler mission investigating extra-solar planets. Not only has he changed his painting methods to adapt to new technologies and materials, he has opened his horizons to the new results from space research and astronomy, such as Voyager, Cassini and the Hubble Space Telescope, incorporating the information into his artwork.

The painting ‘Stellar Radiance’ can be described as having that certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ which means it has an intangible quality which makes it distinctive and attractive. Over the space of time, it’s possibly not David A. Hardy’s best work because he has painted so much since then of different scenes on different media but it is perhaps a representative symbol of his visionary ability. It’s also a painting which can take the mind away from the sometimes dreary streets that we walk to let us know that there are other worlds out there in the universe, immeasurably different from our own and though part of this universe we are but a tiny speck in its existence.

By the way, I did purchase ‘Stellar Radiance’ from David A. Hardy’s website and it’s now hanging on a wall in my house. It has taken 45 years but better late than never!

Rod MacDonald

(c) Rod MacDonald 2015

 

 

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Category: Culture, Illustration

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