A Lunar Landscape
Oil on canvas, 12 x 3 m (40 x 10 ft.)
On March 28, 1957, about six months before Sputnik was launched, the Museum of Science, Boston unveiled Chesley Bonestell’s masterpiece A Lunar Landscape on the lobby wall of the Charles Hayden Planetarium.
Just as 19th–century artists created huge paintings to help Americans envision the scenic wonders of the West, A Lunar Landscape helped viewers imagine what it would be like to stand on another world. And just as those painters had taken artistic license to enhance the western landscape’s grandeur, Bonestell presented a dramatically lit moonscape with sharp peaks, jagged canyons, and precipitous crater walls.
Photos taken by the first lunar probes showed a very different place. They revealed a gentler, far less dramatic world than Bonestell had envisioned. Recognizing that the mural could no longer be considered accurate, museum officials removed it from display in 1970.
“I tried to make it as dramatic as I could,” the artist explained, while admitting that the Moon looked “nothing like” his masterpiece. Soft rolling hills, he said, “wouldn’t have looked very interesting.” Artist Ron Miller suggests that Bonestell painted the Moon “as it should have been.” A Lunar Landscape remains a masterful, if outdated, vision from a time when people could only dream of space travel.
Gift of the Museum of Science, Boston
Image courtesy of a Private Collection
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