Sunday 13 June 2021

Heritage Auctions offer up stunning worlds of Star Trek matte paintings

Next month Heritage Auctions are running the "Entertainment & Music Memorabilia Signature Auction", and among the items on offer are numerous Star Trek production assets, most notably and excitingly, including loads and loads of original matte paintings and matte painting concept art.

It's a real treasure trove of artwork, allowing us a rare expanded look at some of the most icon planetscapes in Trek, and plenty of planets-of-the-week too, from TNG, DS9, Voyager, Enterprise, and movies! Continue below to check out the incredible artwork on offer.

DS9 is well represented in the auction, with some of the most familiar pieces being the major planets of the series. This includes two matte paintings depicting Bajor.

This first painting, by Robert Stromberg, established the look the planet surface from the very start, in Emissary, and was used frequently throughout the series thereafter right up the final episode What You Leave Behind. It was typically shown in a panning shot, with a foreground element adding an extra tower and giving a greater sense of depth.

In Emissary the painting depicts a wrecked Bajor, with rubble and collapsed bridges left by the departing Cardassians. Later appearances show the healthier beautiful world of the artwork in the auction. Throughout the series the same painting was used with tweaked colours to show different weather and times of day; even a night-time version in dark blue. The images here are composites of those panning shots from the 4:3 format series:

Also available is this second familiar view of Bajor:

Also by Stromberg, this view of Bajor, features a stunning waterfall. It first appeared in DS9's second season, in the episode Cardassians, and was then also used again throughout the series. The painting offers a much expanded view than was used on screen.

Note the black matte in the middle of the bridge, where footage of walking actors would be added for the final shot, bringing the scene to life.

Also in the auction are two pieces described as "alien city concept art", both by Syd Dutton. The domes and towers appear to be in the same style as the Bajoran architecture above. Could these by alternate versions of the same city? The first image here notes on the painting that is was for TNG circa 1993, the same year DS9 started. The second image appears to be a wider version of the first.

The other most significant world of DS9, Cardassia, is instantly recognisable for the iconic clawed towers seen in the very familiar matte painting for this world, which is also in the auction.

By Stromberg again, we didn't get to see Cardassia's surface until late in DS9 season two, in the episode Tribunal, but after that this is one of the most well used matte paintings in the series with numerous later appearances. 

The matte painting is not fully detailed on the right side, as this part of the painting is on-screen obscured by a foreground element to give the shot depth and movement. That element also featured the propaganda screens seen in use several times by Cardassian and Dominion overlords.

Many variations of the shot were used throughout the series, not always making full use of the panoramic painting. These include versions with the screens on or off, live action characters sometimes viewing, many different weather/time-of-day colour variations, and in the finale What You Leave Behind, an alternate wrecked version of the city following the Dominion attempted genocide.

Not visited nearly as often, but an important world in DS9's background, is Trill.

Robert Stromberg again created this lush planet, as seen in the episode Equilibrium. On screen once more a foreground element was used to bring the painting to life, so again this portion of the painting is undetailed. You can see the painting gives a significantly wider view of the planet than we got to see on-screen.

Two further concept pieces represent another world visited a little more often, Ferenginar.

Syd Dutton created both concepts, and went on to create the final matte painting too, which Heritage sold in a previous auction a couple of years ago. The final version was first used in the episode Family Business.

Another concept piece by Dutton depicts Romulus, for TNG's Unification.

Heritage sold the final matte painting for this world in their previous sale too. You can see the architecture seemed to lose the more rounded shapes of the initial concept.

Dutton got the chance to revisit Romulus for Star Trek Nemesis, and concept art for that version of the city is also in the current auction.

The final version of this aerial view of the city was computer generated, allowing for a much more dynamic shot that zooms in from space right down to the central senate building.

Around the same time, Dutton got to visit the Klingon homeworld Qo'nos, and a concept painting for that planet is also in the auction.

This version of Qo'noS with it's round architecture and rope bridges featured a few times in Enterprise, starting with a fairly faithful translation of the concept painting in the first episode of the series, Broken Bow.

Back in the twenty-fourth century, the Federation capital Earth gets some love too in this collection. 

This first piece is more matte than painting! From TNG's The First Duty, this is Starfleet Academy as painted by Robert Stromberg. The large matte across the bottom of the painting allowed for live action location footage filmed at the Japanese Garden at the Donald C. Tillman Water Reclamation Plant in Van Nuys, California to complete the scene.

In the 23rd century, the forest scene in the last shot of The Final Frontier was created with this matte painting by Syd Dutton:

The final shot includes a live action element of the camp fire and actors, foreground branches, and vertical pan as the credits start to role over the forest scene. This is apparently a particularly big painting, although Heritage don't say exactly how large.

Also from The Final Frontier is this sunrise sky from the start of the film, used behind a separate foreground painting of Yosemite (which alas is not on offer).

This painting, also by Dutton, is cracked. Heritage explain what happened:
A sun element was lit from behind the painting through a hole with a filter added. A rare situation arose when the heat from that singular light, combined with the relatively cool temperature across the rest of the glass, caused the painting to crack during filming. To save the painted sky during filming, technicians reinforced the glass from behind with Masonite and minor touchups were done with paint. Because the crack remained behind the foreground glass, shooting continued without delay.

Another of Dutton's concept paintings depicts a less ideal version of Earth, the wrecked 31st century San Francisco from Enterprise's Shockwave. 

This painting seems particularly impressionistic, yet the tone of it translates very faithfully into the final more realistic shot.

A second ruined city concept by Dutton is presumably for this episode too, although Heritage haven't pinned down its origins in their listing:

In happy times in the 24th century, Betazed is another garden planet depicted via a lush matte painting.

Seen briefly in TNG's Ménage a Troi, this is another painting by Robert Stromberg. Like Starfleet Academy above, there is a large section where live-action footage, shot at the Huntington Library Botanical Gardens in Pasadena, California, was used to complete the scene. Although in this case the painted element feels life a fairly complete scene in itself. 

Like some of the other matte paintings in this auction, this gives us a nice wider view of the world than we were able to see in the episode.

A matte painting for the interior of a Borg Cube gives us a very different green world!

Credited to Albert Whitlock and Syd Dutton, for the episode Q Who, this painting features a small section where live action footage of the actors on a set would be added to show them in context inside the huge Cube. When TNG was remastered, this matte painting was completely recreated, as it didn't have enough detail for the new HD vision.

Also in the auction is a concept painting of the same scene, with several round features standing out from this alternate take on the Cube interior. This painting is credited non-specifically to Illusion Arts, the effects studio that created matte paintings for Trek for all the series and films throughout the 80s/90s/00s production era.

Back on a planet, we have the damage done by a Borg Cube in this matte painting from The Best of Both Worlds:

There's lots going on in the final shot that used this painting. The live action cast were inserted in the small matte to the right, with the shot starting tight on them, before pulling back and panning to show the scale of the Borg attack. The edge of the crater continues to the front of the shot with the use of additional foreground elements.

A similar quality of light to the interior of the Borg ship infuses this subterranean matte painting depicting Ocampa.

This was painted by Robert Stromberg, for Voyager's first episode Caretaker, and was one of two matte paintings used to depict the Ocampa city - The other was also sold by Hertitage in their previous sale. In the current auction, there are also two concept paintings for the Ocampa matte paintings, both by Syd Dutton.

Alongside all these major homeworlds and iconic locations, there are also numerous matte paintings for episode-of-the-week planets. These are a treat for TNG fans, with several episodes represented.

While one of the least loved episodes, Code of Honor does at least give us a cool matte painting of the palace on Ligon II:

The auction includes two separate paintings, by Albert Whitlock and Syd Dutton, the foreground palace, and the background city and sky. In the final episode these were combined with live action footage showing the palace interior.

The matte painting for Angel One, from the episode of the same name should be very familiar.

This painting by Syd Dutton has been used many times to represent different planets. Like many of the other matte paintings here, it was given a bit of life in it's initial outing by using trees and buildings in the foreground.

While it has been used unaltered for some other episodes, in the remastered edition of Samaritan Snare the original painting was modified a little, adding new or replacement structures to make Starbase 515 look different:

There's also a night time version of the scene in Angel One, which was modified to create a Klingon planet Krios in the episode The Mind's Eye. The remastered version of the episode modified it even more to add more Klingon architectural features.

If you'd like to know more about this very well used matte painting, Ex Astris Scientia has a great article looking at it in detail.

Another of the uses of the Angel One painting was unaltered (but minus the foreground elements) to represent the planet Malcor III in the episode First Contact. Curiously the episode also featured a new matte painting to give a second view of that world, and that matte painting is another of those in the current auction. Robert Stromberg was the artist for this one.

Originally created to depict Darwin Genetic Research Station on Gagarin IV in the episode Unnatural Selection, this matte painting by Syd Dutton is another well used piece.

Following the initial use, the same painting was used, with adjusted colours, to represent Arkaria Base in the episode Starship Mine. Then just a few episodes later it appeared again as Ohniaka III in Descent, this time with the building modified a little to make a bit more distinctive. None of these outings show off the splendid panorama of the original painting!

Dutton also created the Velara III matte painting for the episode Home Soil. In this case the painting doesn't give a lot more, the on-screen shot is just about identical, with some weather effects added.

Another dusty planet is Moab IV from The Masterpiece Society, painted by Robert Stromberg

This painting was a background for a miniature set which created the rocky terrain for the foreground of the shot. The same shot was later reused to represent Torman V in Chain of Command.

Also in the auction if a Syd Dutton concept for the same planet. I think the concept version is a bit prettier!

Another twice used painting was originally Tau Cygna, painted by Robert Stromberg.

This first appeared in TNG's The Ensigns of Command, and was then reused with alternate colouring, for Volan II in DS9's The Maquis. This is one of those paintings with a matted area, allowing the set used for the colonies to be inserted, and through the painting, expanded.

DS9 also borrowed what was originally Turkana IV in Legacy.

The matte painting by Syd Dutton offers a wider view than either TNG's Legacy or DS9's Armageddon Game showed. For the latter appearance as T'Lai III, an additional structure was added, which along with a very different colouring and framing helps hide the reuse quite well.

Yet another wreck of a planet is Teplan, from DS9's The Quickening.

This is another matte painting created by Heritage Auctions simply to Illusion Arts. The final shot includes live action elements in the matted areas.

Finally, we have a particularly dramatic reuse of a matte painting. This is Melona IV the world stripped bare by the Crystalline Entity in Silicon Avatar.

Some rocks were added in the foreground, but the final shot is very similar to the painting as we see it now. 

Originally though this was Rana IV from The Survivors. The first version of the painting had a blue shy (a slither of which remains at the top of the modified painting now), and a matte cut-out where live-action footage of the away team beaming onto the lawn (and presumably the real house that was used for the episode) was added. 

To transform it for the later reuse, a more dramatic cloudy sky was added, and the landscape extended over the matted area.

To check out everything in the sale, have a browse through Heritage Auctions catalogue. Good luck to any bidders hoping to obtain some of these amazing artworks!

You can find more amazing matte paintings that Heritage previously sold in my articles detailing the previous sales here and here. You can also find all sorts of artwork, visual effects, and more browsing back through my behind the scenes tag.

Meanwhile, if you'd like to learn more about matte paintings in Trek, there's a whole chapter on their use in the recent book Star Trek: The Artistry of Dan Curry(ad), in which visual effects supervisor Dan Curry, who worked on Trek throughout the period of all the artwork above, explains how these paintings were used in the series.

Thanks as ever to TrekCore's eternally helpful screencap galleries which I made extensive use of to show off the final on-screen shots above; sometimes augmented to composite panning shots into a single image.


Thomas Higginson said...

Thanks very much Trek Collective for the detailed review of the upcoming ST mattes and sketches! The minor typos and missing dimensional information that you noted will be corrected shortly. If you note anything else, please let me know.

Here is a convenient link for the mattes and sketches from other productions also available during the same auction.

A. Enriquez said...

So cool! I'd like to see the matte of the destroyed Golden Gate Bridge from DS9, too!

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