As mankind’s relationship with the cosmos increasingly grows, humans will continue to document the vast reaches of space. Space art is at times awe-inspiring, whimsical, factual, totally made up, but almost always beautiful. Whether rendered meticulously from data and other scientific reports to completely made up scenes that invoke the imagination, art that engages with the cosmos has been around since ancient times, and will continue to be created as we continue to explore outside of our own planet.

Note to Keaton: This is the last post I would like to be considered for my semester project, but to my 100+ followers (!!!), please check back, as I will continue to reblog and post things on this blog. Thanks everyone for following along!

Harrison Schmitt, View of the Earth as seen by the Apollo 17 crew traveling toward the moon, December 7, 1972
This is one of the most famous photographs of the Earth taken from space, known as the “Blue Marble Photograph.” Because the sun was behind the astronauts when the photograph was taken, the Earth is shown fully illuminated, and the image is one of the most widely distributed photographs in existence. Originally, the photograph was taken with the swirling mass of clouds at the top, but was later rotated so Africa and Madagascar would look as they traditionally do when viewing a world map. The name “Blue Marble” comes from how the astronaut’s described the planet floating in space, and helped with a wave of environmentalism and concern for the Earth that gained momentum in the 70s.
Source 1, 2, 3

Harrison Schmitt, View of the Earth as seen by the Apollo 17 crew traveling toward the moon, December 7, 1972

This is one of the most famous photographs of the Earth taken from space, known as the “Blue Marble Photograph.” Because the sun was behind the astronauts when the photograph was taken, the Earth is shown fully illuminated, and the image is one of the most widely distributed photographs in existence. Originally, the photograph was taken with the swirling mass of clouds at the top, but was later rotated so Africa and Madagascar would look as they traditionally do when viewing a world map. The name “Blue Marble” comes from how the astronaut’s described the planet floating in space, and helped with a wave of environmentalism and concern for the Earth that gained momentum in the 70s.

Source 1, 2, 3

Anselm Kiefer, Sternenfall [Falling Stars], 1998, mixed media on canvas, Blanton Museum of Art, Austin.
I work at the Blanton Museum of Art, and this online image in no way does justice to this massive and gorgeous artwork. It’s one of those pieces you have to see in person to appreciate the meticulous detail and grandeur that it inspires.
Kiefer was born in post-war Germany, and his work similarly explores the fundamental existence of human beings and man’s confrontation with things like mythology, history, and the cosmos. As one press release writes, “Through the emotional, questioning character of his work – fundamental components of the human experience and condition – Anselm Kiefer sheds new light on the foundations of our civilisation, penetrating history’s darkest transgressions. Refuting the processes of collective amnesia, Kiefer finds new resources to confront the unrepresentable in a series of dazzling visions designed to implicate the viewer in the reconstruction of the fabric of memory and reason.”
Sources 1, 2, 3

Anselm Kiefer, Sternenfall [Falling Stars], 1998, mixed media on canvas, Blanton Museum of Art, Austin.

I work at the Blanton Museum of Art, and this online image in no way does justice to this massive and gorgeous artwork. It’s one of those pieces you have to see in person to appreciate the meticulous detail and grandeur that it inspires.

Kiefer was born in post-war Germany, and his work similarly explores the fundamental existence of human beings and man’s confrontation with things like mythology, history, and the cosmos. As one press release writes, “Through the emotional, questioning character of his work – fundamental components of the human experience and condition – Anselm Kiefer sheds new light on the foundations of our civilisation, penetrating history’s darkest transgressions. Refuting the processes of collective amnesia, Kiefer finds new resources to confront the unrepresentable in a series of dazzling visions designed to implicate the viewer in the reconstruction of the fabric of memory and reason.”

Sources 1, 2, 3

Norman Rockwell, Grissom and Young, 1965, oil on canvas, Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

Andy Warhol, Moonwalk, 1987, screen print on Lenox Museum Board, Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh.

The world’s relationship to the cosmos was forever changed with the founding of NASA in 1958, and the first successful moon landing with the Apollo 11 mission in 1969. In an effort to help the American public appreciate NASA’s mission and scientific research in a more accessible way, the NASA Art Program was created in 1962. According to the organization, "many of the artists who participated in this program were the first members of the public to be allowed to fully explore a NASA installation, interact with NASA staff and observe the behind-the-scenes activity connected with a space mission.” Artists who participated in the program included famed illustrator Norman Rockwell (who was especially fitting, as he chronicled many important American milestones in his paintings and illustrations) and Pop Art icon Andy Warhol.

As the funding for NASA has dried up and support for the arts have increasingly been depleted in today’s economic climate, it is important to remember this marriage of the arts and sciences in an effort to promote the exploration of the solar system around us.

Source 1, 2, 3, 4

Kazemir Malevich, Suprematist Painting: Painterly Realism of a Football Player: Color Masses in the Fourth Dimension, 1915, oil on canvas, Art Institute of Chicago.
With the rise of Modernism around the turn of the 20th century, art moved away from representing nature or what can be seen with the naked eye to a more theoretical plane.  Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, which he first presented in 1915, had a massive impact on many artists during the time, including Ukrainian painter Kazemir Malevich. Einstein proposed that we actually live in four dimensions, and Malevich attempted to portray the fourth dimension in visual form through his Suprematist paintings. Obsessed with flight and the idea of space, Malevich’s paintings attempted to convey what the Fourth Dimension might look like as objects pass through it. He achieved this by painting geometric shapes that demand a change in the viewer’s perspective to be able to view the world through the Fourth Dimension. Along with other Modernists like Kandinsky and Mondrian, Malevich was responding to developments in science during the early 20th century that influenced his and his contemporaries art.

Source 1, 2, 3

Kazemir Malevich, Suprematist Painting: Painterly Realism of a Football Player: Color Masses in the Fourth Dimension, 1915, oil on canvas, Art Institute of Chicago.

With the rise of Modernism around the turn of the 20th century, art moved away from representing nature or what can be seen with the naked eye to a more theoretical plane.  Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, which he first presented in 1915, had a massive impact on many artists during the time, including Ukrainian painter Kazemir Malevich. Einstein proposed that we actually live in four dimensions, and Malevich attempted to portray the fourth dimension in visual form through his Suprematist paintings. Obsessed with flight and the idea of space, Malevich’s paintings attempted to convey what the Fourth Dimension might look like as objects pass through it. He achieved this by painting geometric shapes that demand a change in the viewer’s perspective to be able to view the world through the Fourth Dimension. Along with other Modernists like Kandinsky and Mondrian, Malevich was responding to developments in science during the early 20th century that influenced his and his contemporaries art.

Source 1, 2, 3

John W. Draper’s mirror-reversed daguerreotype of the moon taken from his rooftop observatory at NYC on March 26, 1840
Obviously as technology improved, astrological observations became increasingly more accurate. With the invention of photography, astronomers could take actual photographs of the moon instead of sketches or paintings of what they observed. This blog explains the process that Draper went through to capture the image:

For his first effort, Draper made the moon’s rays pass by the reflection of a heliostat through a lens four inches in diameter and fifteen feet in focus.  His allotted exposure time of 30 minutes, however, proved too long, resulting in a partially blackened, overexposed plate.  Draper succeeded in capturing another image of a seventeen-day-old moon by using two lenses and exposing the plate for 45 minutes, resulting in a more distinct, detailed daguerreotype of the moon’s surface.

With Draper’s image, the age of astrophotography was launched, and astronomers had a new technology available to them to study the sky.
Source 1, 2

John W. Draper’s mirror-reversed daguerreotype of the moon taken from his rooftop observatory at NYC on March 26, 1840

Obviously as technology improved, astrological observations became increasingly more accurate. With the invention of photography, astronomers could take actual photographs of the moon instead of sketches or paintings of what they observed. This blog explains the process that Draper went through to capture the image:

For his first effort, Draper made the moon’s rays pass by the reflection of a heliostat through a lens four inches in diameter and fifteen feet in focus.  His allotted exposure time of 30 minutes, however, proved too long, resulting in a partially blackened, overexposed plate.  Draper succeeded in capturing another image of a seventeen-day-old moon by using two lenses and exposing the plate for 45 minutes, resulting in a more distinct, detailed daguerreotype of the moon’s surface.

With Draper’s image, the age of astrophotography was launched, and astronomers had a new technology available to them to study the sky.

Source 1, 2

Vincent van Gogh, The White House at Night, 1890, oil on canvas, Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg.
This is the last painting I’ll post from van Gogh, but probably the coolest astronomy-connected one. This was the last painting created by van Gogh before his death. Researchers from Texas State University in San Marcos set planetarium computer programs for mid-June of 1890 and looked for bright objects in the sky. They discovered that a new moon fell on June 17th, which explains the lack of a moon in the painting. They also discovered that Venus shone as an evening star at -3.9 magnitude, and was visible for two hours after sunset. The researchers concluded that the star in the painting must be Venus, and that the painting was created on June 16th at around 8pm. 
Sources 1, 2, 3

Vincent van Gogh, The White House at Night, 1890, oil on canvas, Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg.

This is the last painting I’ll post from van Gogh, but probably the coolest astronomy-connected one. This was the last painting created by van Gogh before his death. Researchers from Texas State University in San Marcos set planetarium computer programs for mid-June of 1890 and looked for bright objects in the sky. They discovered that a new moon fell on June 17th, which explains the lack of a moon in the painting. They also discovered that Venus shone as an evening star at -3.9 magnitude, and was visible for two hours after sunset. The researchers concluded that the star in the painting must be Venus, and that the painting was created on June 16th at around 8pm. 

Sources 1, 2, 3

Vincent van Gogh, Starry Night, 1889, oil on canvas, Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Vincent van Gogh’s painting of the night sky is one of the most famous in the history of art. Painted while he was institutionalized, his swirling brushstroke and beautiful colors invoke the splendor and grandeur of the night sky. Even though van Gogh obvious took artistic license with his depiction of the heavens, author Simon Singh posited that Vincent’s depiction of the main, central swirl looked an awful lot like a sketch of the Whirlpool Galaxy that astronomer William Parsons made in 1845. While there is no conclusive evidence that shows that van Gogh saw the sketch, or even knew of the astronomer, it’s clear that his fascination with the night sky was influenced by the sheer awe that the cosmos inspires.

Sources 1, 2, 3, 4