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Release Date: January 2, 2019

Lunar Photographs Celebrate 1969 Moon Landing in Exhibit at National Gallery of Art, July 14, 2019 through January 5, 2020

Loewy et Puiseux, "Photographie Lunaire Rayonnement de Tycho - Phase Croissante", 1899; photogravure; National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Mary and Dan Solomon and Patrons' Permanent Fund

Loewy et Puiseux, Photographie Lunaire Rayonnement de Tycho - Phase Croissante, 1899
photogravure
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Mary and Dan Solomon and Patrons' Permanent Fund

Washington, DC—The year 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing on July 20, 1969. From the moment photography was introduced in 1839, photographers dreamt about harnessing the potential of photography together with the telescope. While astronomers had earlier mapped many of the moon's visible features through the telescope, the first photographs revealing the lunar landscape were successfully achieved by the 1850s. Throughout the latter half of the 19th century and into the 20th, numerous photographers created uncannily beautiful lunar pictures that captured the public imagination. By the Light of the Silvery Moon: A Century of Lunar Photographs from the 1850s to Apollo 11 presents some 50 works, from the 19th century to the "space-age" 1960s, that merged art with science and transformed the way that we envision and comprehend the cosmos. The exhibition is on view at the National Gallery of Art from July 14, 2019 through January 5, 2020.

"Photography played a significant role both in preparing for the mission and in shaping the cultural consciousness of the landmark 1969 moon landing," said Earl A. Powell III, director, National Gallery of Art. "We are grateful to Mary and Dan Solomon whose gifts made this extraordinary exhibition possible."

Exhibition Organization

The exhibition is organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington.

About the Exhibition

By the Light of the Silvery Moon presents a select survey of lunar photographs, including Warren de la Rue's late 1850s glass stereograph of the full moon; Lewis Rutherfurd's 1865 albumen prints capturing the moon's different phases taken from his Manhattan observatory; plates from the ambitious Atlas photographique de la lune—published beginning in 1896—by Maurice Loewy and Pierre Henri Puiseux, made from the Paris Observatory, of different lunar areas; and a suite of Charles le Morvan's rich, velvety photogravures from Carte photographique et systématique de la lune (1914), which attempted to systematically map the entire visible lunar surface.

As NASA planned where to land Apollo 11, the unmanned American Ranger, Surveyor, and Lunar Orbiter spacecraft journeyed to the moon and transmitted images, creating otherworldly photographs not only of the lunar areas visible from the earth, but also of the moon's previously unseen far side. Each of these spacecrafts used different imaging systems, providing vital information to NASA. With the success of the 1969 mission, more images of the moon from Apollo 11 flooded into the public sphere.

On display in the exhibition are a selection of Ranger photographs, which are single frames taken by a television camera just before the craft crashed on the moon; Surveyor pictures, consisting of grids of small images beamed from a television camera mounted on the outside of the spacecraft; and Lunar Orbiter images, which were assembled into prints from "framelets," or strips, transmitted to Earth from film developed onboard the spacecraft.

From Apollo 11, glass stereographs taken by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin show close-up views of three-centimeter-square areas of the lunar surface, conveying a sense of standing in the astronauts' shoes. Also on view are several NASA photographs of the astronauts on the moon widely disseminated by the press, such as Armstrong planting the American flag and the iconic image of the astronaut's footprint in the lunar soil, and press photographs taken both before and after the mission.

Exhibition Curator

This exhibition is curated by Diane Waggoner, curator of 19th-century photographs, National Gallery of Art, Washington.

Related Activities

Concert
Living Art Collective Ensemble (LACE) with Elisa Monte Dance, and DJ Twelve45
The Lunar Effect
April 20, 3:00 p.m. (open rehearsal)
April 21, 3:30 p.m. (performance)
West Building, West Garden Court
Since prehistoric times, humans have been fascinated by the moon and its effect on everything from fertility to madness. On Easter Sunday, a holiday determined by the moon, LACE, along with Elisa Monte Dance and DJ Twelve45, weave together a story of how the moon has inspired wonder and fear in various cultures since the human journey began. This program features new music by composer Michael Thurber.

Lecture
The Moon in the Age of Photography
October 20, 2:00 p.m.
West Building Lecture Hall
Mia Fineman, associate curator, department of photographs, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Press Contact:
Laurie Tylec, (202) 842-6355 or [email protected]

General Information

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Press Contact

Laurie Tylec
(202) 842-6355
[email protected]

Questions from members of the media may be directed to the Department of Communications at (202) 842-6353 or [email protected]

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