artist's rendition of a black hole (1971)

[click on image for full screen cover]

Helmut Wimmer (1925-2006) of the Hayden Planetarium in New York, painted for Physics Today his interpretation of a black hole in space. Illustration for the cover article: Introducing the Black Hole by Remo Ruffini and John Archibald Wheeler. The original oil painting resides in the Fine Hall Math-Physics Library at Princeton University. Reprinted with permission from Physics Today Copyright 1971, American Institute of Physics.

Helmut Karl Wimmer was the Art Supervisor of the American Museum-Hayden Planetarium. His works have appeared in many planetariums, museums, and scores of publications. Wimmer was born in Munich, Germany, in 1925, and was apprenticed at the age of fourteen to train as a sculptor and architectural model maker. At eighteen he was in the army and served with the Alpine troops. At the end of World War II, Wimmer was captured by Czech partisans and turned over to the Russians as a prisoner of war. In 1949, Wimmer was released and returned to Munich where he found work as a sculptor. In 1954, he decided to emigrate to the United States. Once in New York, a chance recommendation led him to an opening in the Art Department of the Hayden Planetarium. Besides illustrating planetarium shows, his works have been seen in numerous publications, including, Natural History, Smithsonian, Reader's Digest, and The New York Times. He is best known for his paintings for a series of astronomy books for young people by Dr. Franklin M. Branley, published by T.Y. Crowell."(from Space Art. Ron Miller. page 181. 1978. reproduced with permission)

From Remo Ruffini:
"The artist was selected by Physics Today. We had a discussion in New York to explain the concept at the Hayden planetarium where Helmut Wimmer was working (a former army officer who had been a prisoner of war in Russia was frightened of the Russians coming to Europe after the war and soon left for the US). He listened and then he went home. He could not sleep that night; he woke up at five in the morning and said to himself "I understand the way it should be" and he did the painting. He called me the day after. I went to New York and saw the painting. It was splendid—only the iridium (rainbow spectrum) was reversed—red outside and blue inside. I told him not to change anything, just modify the color sequence. That was the final painting. Afterwards he wanted to donate it to me and I suggested for him instead to dedicate the proof of the Physics Today cover for me and put the original in the Princeton University Fine Hall Library where it still is. Actually the librarian, a very nice elderly lady, wanted to put a plaque with the name of the article by myself and Wheeler underneath it. David Wilkinson [obit] said there was no need—the Ruffini-Wheeler work will be so well known that there will be no need to have any name under it."

back to dr bob home