Cat. no. 78-04


Date: Apr-78
Item Type: Painting
Support: Canvas (Cotton Or Linen)
Dimensions: 48 X 48
Agent / Institution: Wadell Gallery

Apollo. 48 x 48.

It is a sad fact of history that no artist painted Columbus during his
lifetime, nor did anyone even sketch the little caravel, Victoria,
when she returned to Spain, the first ship to circumnavigate the
globe. The Apollo program launched the greatest voyages of discovery
in our history. I hope I have helped commemorate them.
In a
letter to agent Lloyd M. Taggart, 30 November 1978, Wilson wrote:

You asked me to give you the background on the 4' x 4' painting,
"Apollo," I just sent you. Well, it's roundabout, but I was studying
Magellan and got frustrated when I realized the Renaissance artists
were all so busy painting Biblical, mythological and political
subjects that no one painted Victoria, or for that matter, Santa Maria
or even Columbus. Did you know all his portraits are posthumous? I
decided to paint the greatest exploration of my era. I went to
Houston, I read up on it, and tried to paint it as well as I could. I
did one that is all machinery, a close view of the CSM/LM (a
commission). Then I did a 4' x 4' of the craft approaching the moon
with the sunrise about right for, say, Apollo 14. (I had promised Roz
that one eight years ago. It is temporarily on loan to Sen. Schmitt.)
Finally, I elected to paint one for my own enjoyment with more sunlit
area in it and a more arresting design. The moon is three quarters
full, and my geometry is such that the surface, the familiar part
facing Earth, appears as it would from a point about 4,000 miles away
from the moon. I used lunar charts and made a geometric projection of
the parallels and meridians. I had a great time, even building a small
Revell kit of the CSM/LM so I could light it and pose it. When I was
done I called Harrison H. (Jack) Schmitt and the roof fell in. He
critiqued all of the paintings. I mean he really took them apart and
I had to skin them all down and rework them. He was especially
critical of the one you have; although he conceded it made a better
design as a painting, he was disturbed that the terminator was too far
over and, worst of all, I had mis-painted the Taurus-Littrow area
where he had landed. Of the whole surface, I had to mess up there! I
took notes as he criticized, and the information was invaluable. The
red oxide basaltic surface of the Mare Serenitatis, for instance,
seems just another shade of tan gray when it has been filtered by our
atmosphere, and Revell plastic models never heard of plume guards for
the maneuvering rockets or of the SIM camera bay in the service
module, or the positioning of various antennae. So what I have sent
you is corrected (including Taurus-Littrow, of course) by Jack's
critique in all respects except that I have left the terminator over
at about 45 degrees E. My only excuse is that in my opinion it makes
a more striking composition. We have agreed to get together some more
and I hope to ransack his brain further. He is very articulate and
understands my problems quickly as if he too were a painter. I'm sure
more paintings of space will result. If I could only hook a ride on
the space shuttle! Another blurb he wrote about this painting:
command and service module and lunar module of Apollo are shown before
a ¾ full moon. The moon is thus lighted to show all the areas visited
by the astronauts although no landings were ever made with the line
between sunlight and shadow so far over toward a full moon as seen
from earth. The reason was that a sun angle of about 6 degrees was
needed for the pilot to read the roughness of the surface easily at
the point of touchdown. The perspective of the moon's surface is as it
would appear if the viewer were 4,000 miles above it and the coloring
such as the red basalt in the Mare Serenitatis is as it was described
by those who saw it first hand.

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