Books & Manuscripts

The Astronaut Who Walked on the Moon, and Then Painted It

By Sotheby's

L ast year astronaut Alan Bean, the fourth person to set foot on the moon, passed away at the age of 86. Though he will always be remembered for his contributions to the space program and in particular the Apollo 12 mission which landed on the moon just four months after Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, Bean undertook a major life change upon leaving NASA in 1981, pursuing painting full time.

Alan Bean, "To Everyone Who Helped, I Salute You," 2005. Estimate $10,000–15,000.

Bean’s artistic process was the unique result of these two identities – the astronaut and the artist. In his mature period, he would prepare canvases by covering a piece of aircraft plywood with a thick acrylic modeling medium. Then, using a replica of the soles of his lunar boots and the actual flown metal geology hammer that accompanied him to the moon on Apollo 12, Bean would texturize the surface of the canvas. In his later paintings, he would even incorporate flown pieces of heatshield and gold Kapton foil from the Apollo 12 spacecraft, and a small piece of one of Bean's flown emblems embedded with traces of moondust.

In “To Everyone Who Helped, I Salute You” (completed in 2005), all of those technical characteristics are on display. The surface of the painting reveals texturization from the replica lunar boots, while the chest of the spacesuit features a small flown emblem fragment with traces of moondust embedded within the modeling medium and acrylic. Bean sought to create a tangible connection between his viewer and his extraterrestrial subject matter by incorporating these elements that had actually been in outer space.

Alan Bean at Sharp Crater. Black and White Photograph, Signed and Inscribed By Alan Bean. Estimate $2,000–3,000.

LEAD IMAGE: Alan Bean Collecting Lunar Soil Samples. Black and White Photograph, Signed by Alan Bean. Estimate $2,000–3,000.

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