1967: Legendary artist Norman Rockwell imagines the first Moon landing 2+ years before it occurs!
The master of Americana, painter-illustrator Norman Rockwell converted everyday life into colorful tableau we’ve come to know and love.
He also looked to the heavens for inspiration. Rockwell’s breathtaking, color painting titled “Man’s First Step on the Moon” appeared in the January 1967 issue of an American magazine. The image is eerily similar to that of the actual moon landing that would occur two years later, in July 1969.
Today’s TriviaTuesday question asks :
In what now-defunct national magazine did Rockwell’s remarkably realistic rendering of “Man’s First Step On The Moon” appear?
Answer: According to the latest issue of “Natural History” magazine, Rockwell’s illustration appeared in the January 10, 1967, issue of ‘Look’ magazine. ‘Look’ ceased publication in the early 1970s.
Rockwell’s stunning image accompanied an article written by Timothy Barker, Professor of Astronomy Emeritus at Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts.
Barker reported that Rockwell’s painting was received with “great critical acclaim.” However, some “amateur astronomers” who praised it as “suitable for framing” and “awe-inspiring,” pointed out “errors that Rockwell had tried so hard to avoid” (the lighting and size of the Earth, for instance). Their remarks frustrated Rockwell, who reacted by writing a letter to Look’s science editor. It included the following:
“...I knew it would come up, this business of the light showing on the Earth...I spent a whole morning and a part of another morning with those top scientists down there at Houston and, as I told you, they rigged up a tennis ball, a globe and an electric light to show me that that was the way the sunlight would appear on the Earth up in the sky. They were all agreed and positive...”
Despite the comments of a few amateur astronomers, the Natural History article concluded that:
“The most important part of the painting, however, is remarkably accurate: the astronaut is shown stepping off the LM (lunar module) exactly as Neil Armstrong would do over two years later....
“The painting captures this pose exactly, even to the crenulations* in the astronaut’s boot....”
In the end Rockwell had followed the advice of fellow artist Pierre Mion, who had assisted him “with a few of the painting’s technical details: ... to concentrate on the painting’s central message...”
That Rockwell did. The result is a magnificent color rendering of the first human steps on the Moon.
Timothy Barker’s entire article appears in the July/August 2019 issue of “Natural History” magazine. It’s on display now at MidPointe Library’s Middletown location, 125 South Broad Street. The magazine can be checked out on a library card after the next issue arrives.
If you love all-things-Space, look no further than MidPointe Library!
Our popular Summer Reading Program for all ages is going strong at each of our locations! This year’s theme is “A Universe of Stories,” a nod to the 50th anniversary of the Moon landing in July 1969. Read books for prizes, enjoy special programs and more!
If you’re an admirer of Norman Rockwell, make MidPointe your destination! Find biographies of the legendary painter (see above for a few) on-shelf at www.midpointelibrary.org > Catalog Search or online at : www.midpointelibrary.org > eLibrary
All it takes is a free MidPointe Library card! Sign up for your free card at any location: Middletown, West Chester, Trenton, Monroe, Liberty Township (2nd floor, Liberty Center) and onboard our “Library On Wheels,” formerly known as the Bookmobile.
Celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 1969 Moon landing at the Norman Rockwell Museum:
* Crenulation : “….finely notched or scalloped…a crenulated formation…” (From The Oxford English Dictionary, Second Edition, Volume IV” available at MidPointe Library).