Robert Temple Ayres, the artist who painted the original Ponderosa map featured on the TV show Bonanza, has died. The Autry Center blog reports that he passed away on February 25 in Los Angeles at the age of 98.
As for his painting of the Ponderosa map that opens the credits to Bonanza, the NBC series that ran from September 1959 to February 1973, for years it was one of the most recognized maps in the world. Audiences saw it briefly appear every week before it burst into flames and dissolved into a shot of the members of the Cartwright family on horseback, as the twangy theme played. It was donated by the family of David Dortort, the show’s producer, and has been hanging in the Autry’s Imagination Gallery since May 201Even though Ayers worked with some of the biggest names in the business, including Elvis Presley at the peak of his fame, the artist never took the Hollywood hoopla seriously. He didn’t know the map had survived the series until shortly before he came to see it with his family in July. As a family member led him to it in his wheelchair, he exclaimed his surprise. “Oh, for goodness’ sake!” Ayres said.”I had no idea where that had gone.”