Eyewitness to Space

In March 1962, James Webb, Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, suggested that artists be enlisted to document the historic effort to send the first human beings to the moon. John Walker, director of the National Gallery of Art, was among those who applauded the idea, urging that artists be encouraged "…not only to record the physical appearance of the strange new world which space technology is creating, but to edit, select and probe for the inner meaning and emotional impact of events which may change the destiny of our race."

Working together, James Dean, a young artist employed by the NASA Public Affairs office, and Dr. H. Lester Cooke, curator of paintings at the National Gallery of Art, created a program that dispatched artists to NASA facilities with an invitation to paint whatever interested them. The result was an extraordinary collection of works of art proving, as one observer noted, "that America produced not only scientists and engineers capable of shaping the destiny of our age, but also artists worthy to keep them company." Transferred to the National Air and Space Museum in 1975, the NASA art collection remains one of the most important elements of what has become perhaps the world's finest collection of aerospace themed art.

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  • Vehicle and Helicopter on Launch Pad
    Country of Origin: United States of America
    Artist: Paul Arlt
    Credit Line: Transferred from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration
    Date: 1965
    Type: ART-Paintings
  • NASA Mission Control
    Country of Origin: United States of America
    Artist: Paul Arlt
    Credit Line: Transferred from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration
    Date: 1965
    Type: ART-Paintings
  • Cape Kennedy: View of Launch Pads
    Country of Origin: United States of America
    Artist: Paul Arlt
    Credit Line: Transferred from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration
    Date: 1965
    Type: ART-Paintings
  • Sun Through Girders
    Country of Origin: United States of America
    Artist: Paul Arlt
    Credit Line: Transferred from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration
    Date: 1965
    Type: ART-Paintings
  • Launch Area with Crane
    Country of Origin: United States of America
    Artist: Paul Arlt
    Credit Line: Transferred from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration
    Date: 1965
    Type: ART-Paintings
  • Sky Garden '69
    Country of Origin: United States of America
    Artist: Robert Rauschenberg
    Credit Line: Transferred from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration
    Date: 1969
    Type: ART-Prints, Original
  • Night Before Launch
    Country of Origin: United States of America
    Artist: Lamar Dodd
    Credit Line: Transferred from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration
    Date: 1969
    Type: ART-Paintings
  • Apollo 11- The Glittering Hours
    Country of Origin: United States of America
    Artist: Mario Cooper
    Credit Line: Transferred from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration
    Date: 1969
    Type: ART-Paintings
  • Lunar Module
    Country of Origin: United States of America
    Artist: Billy Morrow Jackson
    Credit Line: Transferred from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration
    Date: 1967
    Type: ART-Paintings
  • Painting, Acrylic, Charcoal, Ink, and Watercolor on Paper
    Country of Origin: United States of America
    Artist: Maxine McCaffrey
    Credit Line: Transferred from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration
    Date: 1969
    Type: ART-Paintings
  • Space Age Landscape
    Country of Origin: United States of America
    Artist: William Thon
    Credit Line: Transferred from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration
    Date: 1969
    Type: ART-Paintings
  • Mike Collins
    Country of Origin: United States of America
    Astronaut: Michael Collins
    Artist: Paul Calle
    Credit Line: Transferred from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration
    Date: 1969
    Type: ART-Drawings