Since you consume the internet excessively, you’ve probably at some point seen the image above, maybe with the added text: MY NOSE ITCHES. This is a very funny meme, well done internet.

However, you may not know the artist behind that painting of the slightly awkward astronaut. So our ongoing aerospace artists series is pleased to introduce you to Alan Bean, Lunar Module Pilot of Apollo 12 and the fourth man to ever walk on the Moon.

Bean is not only a cosmic hero, but also — like his Soviet colleague, spacewalker cosmonaut Aleksey A. Leonov — a talented and prolific painter. You may ask how the NASA astronaut who became the fourth man to walk on the Moon (preceded by Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Pete Conrad) also became an inspired painter of the Apollo program. His biography on the official Alan Bean homepage explains:

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Bean’s development as a painter began when he took his first art class while he was a test pilot at Patuxent River, Maryland. Among the early works are flower motifs, abstract flight motifs, and copies of paintings by Cezanne, Degas, and Greacen.

After his Apollo 12 and Skylab 3 space flights, he worked on the Space Shuttle program and was named acting Chief Astronaut, overseeing the training of new astronauts. For the first time since he was assigned to Apollo 12, he was no longer preparing for an upcoming flight of his own and, all of sudden, there was spare time for an old love: painting. [...]

“So I took some time off and painted full-time to see if I’d like it. I simulated it, which is always good. I learned that at NASA; and the more I simulated being an artist, the more I realized it’s much more difficult than I’d thought. But at the same time I liked it. I cared about it! I had many nice job offers for a lot of money, but I didn’t care about them. I care about these paintings. I care about them every day.”

The following selection of paintings — mostly of astronauts on the Moon —shows you a firsthand artistic account of real space adventures.

An American Success Story, 1987 (Apollo 16’s John Young on the Moon)

Source: Heritage Auctions


Cernan And His Rover, 1993 (Apollo 17’s Eugene Cernan on the Moon)

Source: Heritage Auctions


The Hammer and the Feather, 1986 (Apollo 15’s Dave Scott on the Moon)

Source: Heritage Auctions


A Giant Leap (Apollo 11’s Neil Armstrong steps on the Moon)

Source: Heritage Auctions


Straightening our Stripes, 1985 (Neil Armstrong deploying the American flag on the Moon)

Source: Heritage Auctions


Heavenly Reflections, 1990 (Pete Conrad and Alan Bean on the Moon)

Source: Heritage Auctions


Helping Hands, 1985 (Pete Conrad and Alan Bean working on the moon)

Source: Heritage Auctions


Conrad, Gordon, and Bean: The Fantasy, 1992 (Apollo 12 crew on the moon)

Source: Heritage Auctions


In the Beginning, 1993 (Commemorating July 20, 1969)

Source: Heritage Auctions


Right Stuff Field Geologists, 1993 (The Apollo 17 moonwalkers)


Source: Heritage Auctions


In Flight, 1990 (Apollo 14’s Alan Shepard hits his famous golf shot on the Moon)

Source: Heritage Auctions


Armstrong, Aldrin, and an American Eagle, 1983

Source: The Alan Bean Gallery


Big Al and his Rickshaw, 1983

Source: The Alan Bean Gallery


Hopes and Dreams, 1987 (The Shuttle Returns to Flight)

Source: The Alan Bean Gallery


Night Launch, 1975

Source: The Alan Bean Gallery


Spirit of Space Flight, glass mosaic completed c1961

Source: The Alan Bean Gallery


Is Anyone Out There? 2006

Source: The Alan Bean Gallery


Alan Bean Apollo 12 lunar module pilot (NASA/NASA)


Aerospace artists previously in this series:

  1. Attila Héjja – The Hungarian-Born Painter Who Immortalized America’s Space Program
  2. Paul Fjeld – 13 Amazing Paintings of Space Based On Actual Missions
  3. Robert T. McCall – 27 Paintings From the Most Famous Space Artist On Earth (And Off)
  4. Davis Paul Meltzer – The Forgotten Space Artist Who Envisioned the End of the Space Race
  5. John Conrad Berkey – The Space Artist Who Perfectly Painted All Our Cosmic Dreams
  6. Chesley Bonestell – The Beautiful Art That Helped Inspire Space Travel
  7. Aleksey A. Leonov – The First Spacewalker Created The Best Soviet Cosmic Landscapes