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MFA Houston Celebrates the 40th Anniversary of Man's Landing on the Moon
Neil A. Armstrong´s photograph of Edwin E. "Buzz" Aldrin, Jr., on the Moon, 1969, 93.199.10 The MFAH, the Target Collection of American Photography, gift of Target Stores.

HOUSTON, TX.- To mark the 40th anniversary of man´s landing on the moon, this September the MFAH presents The Moon: "Houston, Tranquility Base Here. The Eagle Has Landed." This exhibition chronicles man´s enduring fascination over five centuries with our nearest planetary neighbor. Ranging from moonlit landscapes by the Old Masters and the Impressionists, to Ansel Adams´ iconic Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico (1941) and shots famously taken on the moon by the members of Apollo 11, the exhibition provides a dazzling overview of five centuries of moon-gazing. In addition, early scientific instruments, books, moon globes, maps, Galileo Galilei´s 1610 treatise on the moon, and objects from NASA will be on view. The Moon will be presented September 27, 2009-January 10, 2010 in the Audrey Jones Beck Building. The exhibition was conceived by Dr. Andreas Blühm, director of the Wallraf-Richartz Museum, Cologne, and is presented in Houston in an expanded version under the direction of the MFAH´s associate curator of European art, Helga Aurisch.

The exhibition´s title is taken from the famous first words that Commander Neil Armstrong broadcast to Mission Control, at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, after Apollo 11 landed on the moon on Sunday, July 20, 1969, 3:18 p.m. CST: "Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed." By changing the call signal to Tranquility Base, the landing site, Armstrong signaled to his colleagues back on Earth that the lander portion of their spacecraft (named the Eagle after the USA´s national bird) had set down on the moon.

"The moon has captured the imagination of artists throughout the ages, and this delightful survey celebrates the beauty of the planet as depicted by great painters, photographers, and sculptors during a span of 500 years," commented MFAH director Dr. Peter C. Marzio. "Displayed chronologically, presentations of the moon vary from mysterious and romantic to documentarian, revealing man´s changing perception of space over time."

The ever-changing, yet ever-constant image of the moon is a widespread visual motif in Western art," said Aurisch. "From representations of the unobtainable planet subtly lighting landscapes in beautiful nocturne paintings to a photorealistic painting created by an astronaut who explored space, the works on view represents different stages in the artistic perception and interpretation of the moon."

On view will be works by Albrecht Dürer, Peter Paul Rubens, Aelbert Cuyp, Joseph Wright of Derby, Caspar David Friedrich, Honoré Daumier, Jean-François Millet, Charles-François Daubigny, Gustav Doré, Edouard Manet, Edvard Munch, Max Beckmann, Robert Wilson, and Sharon Harper.

The oldest objects in the exhibition, such as The Virgin of the Crescent Moon (1511), a woodcut by the great German Renaissance artist Albrecht Dürer, show the moon in a religious context; the most recent artworks on view are No.5-7 from Sharon Harper´s series of photographs, Moon Studies and Star Scratches (2004). In addition, the exhibition will feature a painting by Apollo 12 astronaut Alan Bean, who depicts his travels in space in a photorealist style using actual moon dust on his paintings, as well as photographs taken by Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong during their lunar landing. Scientific objects—books and maps, instruments, globes, and models—will also be on display, and point to revealing connections between science and art throughout the exhibition. For example, Flemish Baroque master Peter Paul Rubens´ Self-Portrait in a Circle of Friends at Mantua (c. 1605-06) depicts himself facing the philosopher, astronomer, and physicist Galileo Galilei within the group of intellectuals and artists assembled by the Vincenzo Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua. Pages from Galileo´s Sidereus Nuncius (or Starry Messenger, 1610), the first scientific treatise based on observations made with the use of a telescope, will also be on view.

Through approximately130 artworks and a selection of early scientific instruments and maps, the exhibition details how mankind has approached the moon over time, both optically and artistically. Balancing artistic vision with scientific fact, major historical moments are represented, from the invention of the telescope, to the introduction of photography, to space exploration and man´s landing on the moon. Through the interaction of art and science, our perception of the planet has been shaped, and all the paintings, graphic artworks, models, sculptures, and photographs depict the same iconic subject in unique, intriguing ways.

MFAH | The Moon | Old Masters and the Impressionists | Houston | Neil Armstrong |

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