Lot 15
  • 15


20,000 - 30,000 USD
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  • "A Nice Place to Visit", circa 1972
Acrylic over texturized modeling medium on board, 27 ½ by 21 ½ inches, signed "Alan Bean" lower left. Matted and framed to 29 ½ by 23 ½ inches.


ACQUISITION: Houston Symphony Orchestra Charity Auction, circa 1972-73 


Bean, Alan. Apollo. An Eyewitness Account by Astronaut/Explorer Artist/Moonwalker Alan Bean, pp. 154-155 

Catalogue Note

THE FIRST PAINTING OF THE MOON BY SOMEONE WHO WAS ACTUALLY THERE, AND ONE OF THE EARLIEST KNOWN SURVIVING PAINTINGS FROM APOLLO 12 ASTRONAUT ALAN BEANWhen Alan LaVern Bean (1932-2018) passed away this year at the age of 86, he was remembered primarily for his part in the Apollo 12 mission as the fourth person to set foot on the moon, just four months after Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first moonwalkers. However, when the astronaut left NASA in 1981 he undertook a major life change and began to pursue painting full time (to the surprise of his astronaut peers). When his book, Apollo. An Eyewitness Account by Astronaut/Explorer Artist/Moonwalker Alan Bean was published in 1998, he stated: “I think of myself not as an astronaut who paints, but as an artist who was once an astronaut.”

Bean's unique artistic process is a direct reflection of his dual identity as an artist and an astronaut. In his mature period as an artist, Bean would prepare his canvas by covering a piece of aircraft plywood with a thick acrylic modeling medium. Bean would then texturize the surface of his canvas using a replica of the soles of his lunar boots, and the actual FLOWN metal geology hammer that accompanied him to the lunar surface on Apollo 12 ("these tools, which once helped me explore the moon, are now putting the moon's stamp on my paintings.") In his later paintings, he would also incorporate three additional elements into the modeling medium: 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 (see lot 16). 

VERY FEW PAINTINGS PRIOR TO 1981 SURVIVE, AND AS SUCH THIS EARLY WORK OFFERS A RARE GLIMPSE INTO BEAN'S FORMATIVE YEARS AS AN ARTIST. The painting at hand deviates from the process described above in several ways: Bean is not yet incorporating the moon boot texture in his modeling medium, nor does he utilize aircraft plywood, emblems, or spacecraft material. It is, however, an early articulation of his desire to provide his Earthly viewers with a connection to the rough and unpolished lunar world that the Apollo astronauts experienced firsthand.