The Best of Bean

A collection of otherworldly paintings goes on display at the National Air and Space Museum.

Portrait of a Crater, Second Effort

(Courtesy Alan Bean)

1993, acrylic on Masonite

Writes Russo: “Bean made this painting for a geologist-artist friend, who requested a typical lunar crater with mountains in the background. Bean chose Ballet Crater from Apollo 17, so named because of a conversation between mission control and the lunar astronauts.

“As Jack Schmitt was collecting samples, he lost his balance and took a spinning fall to his hands and knees. Bob Parker in the Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston told him, ‘And be advised that the switch board at [Mission Control] has been lit up by calls from the Houston Ballet Foundation requesting your services for next season.’ Schmitt responded, ‘I should hope so,’ then took two big hops and extended his leg. ‘How’s that?’”

Recalls Bean, “Well, I completed the painting. It was beautiful and I sent it to my friend. But as the days passed I found I couldn’t get the painting off my mind. I don’t know exactly why, but I called my friend and asked him to send the painting back. I studied it for two or three weeks and began to feel it should be keyed in a lighter and warmer hue. The painting seems just right to me now.”

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