This week marked the 46th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing on 20 July 1969. Knowing how inspirational the moon, and other heavenly bodies, have been to the arts over the years it seemed a shame to let such a momentous achievement slip silently by.
A book that unravels this extraordinary adventure in a way that brings it all back to those of us who followed it glued to our black-and-white television sets all those years ago, and communicates all of that excitement to younger generations for whom space travel has perhaps become somewhat more mundane.
Tsukioka Yoshitoshi has come to be regarded as one of the last great masters of the traditional Japanese woodblock print, and in this famous series the moon presides over and illuminates stories from history, literature, legend and the theatre. Many of Yoshitoshi’s images are truly confronting and his penchant for violent and horrific subject matter can be challenging even today, but his work also contains scenes of extraordinary beauty and poetry, such as this lovely image titled Inaba Mountain Moon.
How farsighted it was in 1962 for NASA to establish an art program dedicated to allowing contemporary artists to explore the work and accomplishments of the United States space program. This book celebrating 50 years of artistic endeavour reveals the true value of this idea, with artists as diverse as Norman Rockwell, Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, James Wyeth and Annie Leibovitz (to name just a few) transforming the business of space into imagery of great power and beauty.
Alan Bean was only the fourth person to walk on the moon as part of the Apollo 12 mission in November 1969. He finally retired from NASA in 1981 and took up painting, drawing on his experience of the lunar landscape to create a large number of works which seek to document and interpret his memories of that remarkable time on another world.
Gustav Holst, The Planets & Colin Matthews, Pluto the Renewer: Halle Orchestra conducted by Mark Elder
It simply wouldn’t be right to have a post about outer space and not include Gustav Holst’s orchestral suite The Planets, written between 1914 and 1916 and hardly out of the repertoire since its public premiere in 1918. This terrific performance (courtesy of Alexander Street Press) comes from the wonderful Halle Orchestra and includes a work commissioned by the orchestra from Colin Matthews in 2000, dedicated to Pluto which had only been discovered in 1930. We shall not mention Pluto’s relegation to “dwarf planet” in recent years, but instead celebrate the wonderful images that have come to us from NASA’s New Horizons mission; looks like a planet to me.
In closing I just can’t resist this fabulous clip of the great Lotte Lenya singing the Alabama Song by Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill; Oh moon of Alabama, we now must say goodbye……
Or perhaps something a little less cynical
Don’t let’s ask for the moon, we have the stars……