Chesley Bonestell Mission Paintings

$8,500 away from Realizing a Dream Almost 50 Years in the Making!

Beloved American artist, illustrator and architect Chesley Bonestell (1888-1986) is best known as the Father of Modern Space art for his imaginative and prescient depictions of scenes literally out of this world. What few know is that late in life he turned back to his California roots and completed a beautiful series of traditional oil paintings of each of California’s 22 original Spanish missions. His paintings were the subject of 'The Golden Era of the Missions 1769-1834' (Chronicle Books, 1974).

It was this California Native’s life long dream to combine his love of art and architecture in this unique collection of California’s missions, and it was his wish that the series go intact as a collection to a major California institution for the public to view. When Bonestell’s wife died in 1998, the Mission collection was bought by a Los Angeles benefactor who put it up for sale in 2002 at the Santa Barbara Historical Society in the hope that they could attract a buyer interested in preserving the collection.

The night of the auction, San Francisco resident Brad Paul found himself bidding against an art dealer planning to break up the set to sell off individually—unfortunately, a series like this is worth FAR more when sold off individually. Fortunately, that art dealer quit just shy of the $25,000 that Brad had taken out of his savings to bid with.

Now the owner of a substantial collection of art with no idea of how to curate it, Brad approached the non-profit California Historical Society (CHS), which had featured Bonestell’s work in previous exhibitions. The CHS was the perfect home for the collection, and Brad and his wife elected to donate the collection in its entirety to them last December. Following Brad’s lead, a friend and fellow Bonestell aficionado donated an additional $25,000 to cover most of the cost to thoroughly clean and restore all 22 works (originally painted in 1972-1973) so they can be publicly displayed.

The CHS now needs to build an appropriate storage container to keep the paintings permanently clean and mold free; this will cost $5,500. Finally, federal law required that a professional art expert appraise the collection prior to donating it.  Brad has paid for half of the appraisal upfront but still owes $3,000.

This fundraising effort will raise the final $8,500 needed to fulfill Bonestell’s dream of preserving and displaying his Mission collection for generations to come. CHS will soon turn the Old U.S. Mint in San Francisco into its new headquarters and gallery space, a perfect backdrop for this collection. The $8,500 raised will help pay for a new museum quality storage container for all 22 paintings and the final payments for the appraisal.

  • CMF CMF 
    • $500 
    • 56 mos
  • Ron Miller 
    • $25 
    • 56 mos
  • Hanmin Liu 
    • $250 
    • 56 mos
    • $250 
    • 56 mos
  • Mardi Kildebeck 
    • $100 
    • 56 mos
See all


Erin Crysdale 
San Rafael, CA

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