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The Eagle has Landed at the Museum of Fine Art, Houston

Apollo 11 on the moon, 1969

Apollo 11 on the moon, 1969

The Moon: “Houston, Tranquility Base Here. The Eagle Has Landed”
Museum of Fine Art, Houston
September 27, 2009 – January 10, 2010

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,” an exhibition that 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.


This exhibition was originally conceived by the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum & Fondation Corboud, Cologne. Generous funding is provided by: Mrs. Linda K. Finger; The William Stamps Farish Fund; Mr. James E. Maloney; Mr. and Mrs. T. R. Reckling III; Mr. and Mrs. James C. Flores; The Hildebrand Fund; Martha Katherine Long; and Mr. and Mrs. Melvyn L. Wolff.


A range of programs are planned throughout the run of the exhibition, including tours for children and adults, as well as a cell phone audio tour. Please visit for details. A few highlights include:

  • Friday Afternoon Lecture, 1:30 p.m. Fridays, September 18 and 25, and October 2 and 16. The Friday/Saturday Lecture series offer engaging art history delivered by distinguished writers and curators.
  • Saturday Afternoon Lecture, 4 p.m. Saturdays, September 19 and 26 and October 3 and 17. The Friday/Saturday Lecture series offer engaging art history delivered by distinguished writers and curators.
  • Opening Day Artist Talk: Astronaut/Painter Alan Bean, 3 p.m. Sunday, September 27. Captain Alan Bean served as the lunar module pilot on the Apollo 12 mission, and pursued an art career after retirement. Bean talks about his quest to capture in paint what he and other astronauts saw and felt during those first momentous steps on the surface of the moon.
  • Target Free First Sunday: To the Moon and Beyond!, 1-5 p.m. Sunday, October 4. Families can explore and make art, watch the Angelus Harp Ensemble or catch Family Flicks (E.T. and Goodnight, Moon), listen to stories about moon and space, and interact with hands-on science stations.
  • Creation Station: Walking on Moonbeams and Sketching in the Galleries, both 1-4 p.m., and a Family Tour at 1 and 4 p.m., all Sunday, October 18. Families can enjoy art-making workshops, sketch objects in the MFAH collection with guidance from an MFAH teaching artist, and take a tour designed just for kids and families.
  • Where Art and Science Meet: A Panel Discussion, 6 p.m. Tuesday, October 27. Dr. Tracy Xavia Karner, Director of the new Visual Studies Program at the University of Houston, brings together a panel of experts from the university to discuss how visual images of the moon shape our understanding of science and how science shapes our understanding of visual imagery.
  • Artful Thursday, 6:30 p.m. Thursday, November 19. Dr. Marcia J. Citron, Lovett Distinguished Service Professor of Musicology, traces the exhibition;s leitmotif through the changing musical landscape of the 19th and 20th centuries.

MFAH Collections

Founded in 1900, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, is the largest art museum in America south of Chicago, west of Washington, D.C., and east of Los Angeles. The encyclopedic collection of the MFAH numbers more than 57,000 works and embraces the art of antiquity to the present. Featured are the finest artistic examples of the major civilizations of Europe, Asia, North and South America, and Africa. Italian Renaissance paintings, French Impressionist works, photographs, American and European decorative arts, African and Pre-Columbian gold, American art, and European and American paintings and sculpture from post-1945 are particularly strong holdings. Recent additions to the collections include Rembrandt van Rijn’s Portrait of a Young Woman (1633), the Heiting Collection of Photography, a major suite of Gerhard Richter paintings, an array of important works by Jasper Johns, a rare, second-century Hellenistic bronze Head of Poseidon/Antigonos Doson, major canvases by 19th-century painters Gustave Courbet and J.M.W. Turner, distinguished work by the leading 20th- and 21st-century Latin American artists, and The Adolpho Leirner Collection of Brazilian Constructive Art.

MFAH Hours and Admission

Hours are Tuesday and Wednesday, 10 a.m.–5 p.m.; Thursday 10 a.m.–9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m.–7 p.m.; and Sunday, 12:15–7 p.m. The museum is closed on Monday, except for holidays. Admission to this exhibition is included with general admission to the museum. General admission is $7 for adults and $3.50 for children 6-18, students, and senior adults (65+); admission is free for children 5 and under. Admission is free on Thursday, courtesy of Shell Oil Company Foundation. Admission is free on Saturday and Sunday for children 18 and under with a Houston Public Library Power Card or any other library card.

For information, the public may call 713-639-7300, or visit

Apollo 11 on the moon, 1969

Apollo 11 on the moon, 1969

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