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There can be few people around the world who’ve had even the slightest brush with civilisation who can have failed to see a picture of men landing on the moon – probably Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.
The fourth man to walk on the moon, Alan Bean, feels that this is not enough to capture the experience. He is keenly aware that he is one of only twelve people to walk on the surface, and has tried to capture the experience in paintings.
Bean does not paint at any speed, having created 162 paintings in 28 years. But the pieces have a lot packed into them, sometimes literally. The moonscapes aim to depict the feeling of the mission as much as what happened.
The moon’s surface is sometimes many non-grey hues and some of the scenes are imaginary, for example one in which the astronauts are throwing a football. The light-hearted tone is reflective of a mission on which the first words spoken by his fellow astronaut Charles ‘Pete’ Conrad on landing were "Whoopie! Man, that may have been a small one for Neil, but that's a long one for me."
The paintings are completed with touches from the tools of the mission, including a print from a moon boot on one, and a fragment from a flag Bean carried pressed into another.
Bean has a long list of paintings he’d like to do before he’s no longer able. At 77, he doubts they’ll all be done, but he has them in order of interest, and thinks another 40 would be about par for the course.
There is a retrospective of Bean’s work at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum in Washington until the end of the year. Bean’s work has the double claim of interest of both being literally touched by moon dust and created by someone with a unique story to tell, and will fascinate anyone with even a passing interest.