The show Bonanza celebrates its 60th anniversary this week! What a huge milestone. The beloved western series ran from 1959 to 1973, lasting 14 seasons with 431 amazing episodes. The show is NBC’s longest-running western. It also ranks overall as the second-longest-running western series on U.S. network television.
One of the most recognizable features of the show was the Ponderosa map in the credits. The map was officially known as “Map to Illustrate the Ponderosa in Nevada.” Well, that map was apparently painted by Shirley Temple’s cousin!
Shirley Temple’s cousin creates a masterpiece recognizable by millions
Everyone remembers this map going up in flames, but not to worry. They didn’t actually set fire to the original artwork at all! The artist behind this beautiful painting is Robert Temple Ayres. He is born in Michigan in 1912 and was raised in a very artistic family (clearly, if Shirley Temple is his cousin). Robert’s sister was a violinist, his uncle was a watercolor painter, and of course, Shirley Temple was known as America’s sweetheart child star for several years.
Ayres begins his painting career mainly creating images for advertising and religious work. One of his most recognizable paintings called “The Savior” is from 1949. The painting is one of the most recognizable versions of Jesus in paintings, specifically in the 20th century.
Many of his works were religious and would catapult him to Hollywood illustration
Many of his religious illustrations would go on to appear in Golden Treasury of Bible Stories. This was the most common of its kind for Christian children in the 1950s and ’60s. Ayres would soon get his big break in Hollywood with the Biblical epic Ben Hur. He would continue to work on illustrations for motion pictures. Many of the companies he worked for include MGM, Paramount, Warner Bros., Universal, and Disney.
Ayres would even go on to paint the artwork for the Epcot theme park in Disney World. So, he’s a pretty massive deal!
He might have done artwork for Disney, but his biggest work is for ‘Bonanza’
Ayres might have made the rounds in big companies and corporations, but nothing is as big as his Ponderosa map painting. He also paints a portrait of his famous cousin when she was 17 years old. It’s available for viewing below!
Relive the memories of the famous Ponderosa map by watching the credits video for Bonanza below: