Robert T. Ayers Captain of Industry or Great Statesman 1950s Oil on Board P751

A dynamic portrait by the extremely skillful Robert Temple Ayres. To these eyes, there is a touch of FDR in the image (hint of wheelchair, cane, pince-nez), but with more of the air of an actor who could be playing him (Ralph Bellamy), HOWEVER, in the words of the BBC political miniseries, House of Cards, “I couldn’t possibly comment.” Art measures 20″ x 24″ unframed.

Price on request.

Robert Temple Ayres, 98, a set illustrator for Hollywood studios who in 1959 created the “Map to Illustrate the Ponderosa in Nevada” shown on the opening titles of Bonanza, died of heart failure Feb. 25, 2012 at his home in Cherry Valley, Calif.

Only three days earlier, he had made one last pilgrimage to view his iconic artwork, said his daughter, Sharon Richards. The map, created at Paramount Studios, was pictured just so it could burst into flames during the opening of the long-running show. While the theme music played, Mr. Ayres’ map dissolved, revealing the Cartwright clan, originally played by Lorne Greene, Pernell Roberts, Dan Blocker, and Michael Landon.

The map hung for decades in the home of Bonanza creator and producer David Dortort. Dortort’s family donated it to the Autry National Center of the American West in Los Angeles after he died in 2010. After the Autry Center announced in June that the map of the fictional ranch was on permanent display, Mr. Ayres and family members visited the exhibit three times.

Mr. Ayres was born in Lansing, Mich. He attended what is now Michigan State University but left to help with his father’s real estate and property management business during the Depression. Exempted from military service because of severe allergies, Mr. Ayres worked as a navigator for Pan American World Airways during World War II. He studied at the Academy of Art in Chicago and at the Chouinard Art Institute and Jepson Art Institute in Los Angeles.

After working as a commercial artist, he illustrated The Golden Treasure of Bible Stories and other books. His religious artwork landed him a job at MGM when the studio needed set illustrators for the 1959 epic Ben-Hur.

As a set illustrator, his work involved turning blueprints and technical specifications given to him by set designers into drawings or paintings that would help guide set builders. He moved on to Paramount and Disney, where he was a set illustrator on hundreds of films, including Blue Hawaii (1961), The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962), and The Black Hole (1979). His last assignment at Disney before retiring in 1980 was creating artwork for restaurants and other venues at Epcot Center in Florida.