On July 16, 1969, Apollo 11 launched from Cape Canaveral on its historic mission to land on the Moon. Forty years later, National Air and Space Museum visitors will have the unique opportunity of seeing the Moon through the eyes of the only artist who walked its surface. Alan Bean, who served on the Apollo 12 mission later that year, was the fourth man to walk on the Moon. After 18 years as an astronaut, he resigned from NASA in 1981 to dedicate his life to painting his memories of Apollo.
Bean employs an impressionistic style to depict lunar landscapes, portraits of fellow moonwalkers and views of Earth from space. In 1999, he began adding textures to his paintings. When preparing a painting, he indents the surface with a Moon boot, makes scrapes with a lunar rock hammer and grinds circles with a core bit. In 2001, he began adding to his paintings minute amounts of Moon dust embedded in the keepsake patches from his spacesuit. With more than 50 works of art on display as well as some of the museum’s artifacts featured in the paintings—including a lunar rover, the Apollo 11 rock box that came back from the Moon and Bean’s Apollo 12 spacesuit and helmet—this exhibition presents a firsthand account of one of humankind’s greatest achievements.
"On the 40th anniversary of mankind’s first steps on the Moon, we are proud to present the largest exhibition of Alan Bean’s works to date. His paintings offer glimpses of a world on which only he and 11 others have walked," said Gen. J.R. "Jack" Dailey, director of the museum.
The exhibition is divided into eight thematic parts—Alan Bean: the Astronaut, Alan Bean: the Artist, Lunar Exploration, Mother Earth, Lunar Landscapes, Apollo Camaraderie, Homeward Bound and Fantasy and Fun. It will be on display at the museum’s Flight in the Arts gallery until January 2010. The book “Alan Bean: Painting Apollo” accompanies the exhibition (Smithsonian Books, 224 pages, $39.99).
The National Air and Space Museum building on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., is located at Sixth Street and Independence Avenue S.W. During the summer the museum will stay open two hours later, until 7:30 p.m. every day through Monday, Sept. 7.