First Look at Apollo’s Muse: The Moon in the Age of Photography at The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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First Look at Apollo’s Muse: The Moon in the Age of Photography at The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Review by Dianne Budion Devitt

Long before the first man set foot on the Moon, people have gazed upward watching the waning and the waxing each month brings. The intrigue, the stories and the myths that are associated with our moon, the Earth’s moon, attract diverse tastes and beliefs from astrology to nuclear physics. Ancients followed Diana – or Artemis – as a goddess, a symbol of the moon. The very word luna, evokes mystery, emotion and appeal.

Embracing this magnetic allure, it is no surprise that dreamers like Galileo, who published his first drawings and descriptions of the moon as seen through a telescope, excitedly set out to record the images and begin a course of exploration that is as exciting now as it was then. Galileo’s book, Starry Messenger, was written in 1610. Imagine being commissioned back in the 1600s to provide a drawing of the moon to a benefactor. This exact act is what French draftsman, Mellan, was charged with by a French humanist named Nicolas-Claude Fabri Peiresc and astronomer Piere Gassendi. Mellan used a telescope on loan by Galileo to capture three phases of the moon in his amazingly accurate engravings. Engravers continued to challenge themselves with illustrating the moon Over 200 years later, photography was born and with it came an interest to capture the moon through the lens using this new technology.

These fascinating facts and so much more are currently on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in a comprehensive exhibit appropriately produced as the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing is being acknowledged. The exhibit, Apollo’s Muse: The Moon in the Age of Photography, gives the history from the early speculation and drawings to the extensive catalogue that produced every section of the Moon for early explorers to analyze and absorb. What I found fascinating was reading about John William Draper, an early professor of chemistry at New York University and physician who was the first to produce a daguerreotype. A daguerreotype is the first photographic process ever recorded and absolutely a treat to view. These frames caught a speck of a moon about ¼” wide if that much in all its phases – including crescents. Be prepared to position your device into the lens of some of the earlier equipment to capture the reflection and images. You truly experience how the artist felt at the first glance – as excited as we are with the famous Earth Rise image. In my own interest of astronomy, I learned that physicians would study the stars as well to anticipate illnesses and aspects that were brought on by phases of the moon, by lunar cycles.

My personal fascination with the moon since a child was given the biggest gift in 2009. After the financial crash, my event planning business was non-existent and one full-moon night, I looked up at the moon and wished for something big to work on. The following Monday I received a call and before you could blink, was on a plane to MIT to meet with the Aero-Astro Department to discuss the 40th celebration of the Apollo landing. This experience and working with the gifted team at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, NASA and all related aerospace companies has left me with indelible memories that I will never forget. I was Mr. Armstrong’s partner in crime for over two days and orchestrated the logistics with an amazingly talented team who were grateful to be in the presence of Buzz Aldrin, Christopher Kraft and so many other luminaries whose equal fascination with the moon and space propelled them into their studies and life’s work. As I stood in the gallery surrounded by over 40 original images, I imagined that all the astronauts at one time in their studies referenced the great atlas that Maurice Loewy and Pierre Henri Puiseux published in 1910 – L’atlas photographique de la lune is a highlight and focal point of the exhibit.

I was thrilled when asked to view this exhibit as it brought another perspective into the mystery of space – of the moon as seen through the photographic lens. Imagine learning that in the 1840s, celestial photography was a major subject at Harvard. Whether you look up at the night sky and wink at the full moon, which was Mr. Armstrong’s wish, or star gaze from the top of your apartment building, know that you are in good company as all of mankind has looked upward at one point in their lives watching the moon’s cycles, wondering, wondering, wondering.



Apollo’s Muse: The Moon in the Age of Photography

Apollos Muse
Exhibition Dates: July 3–September 22, 2019
Exhibition Location: The Met Fifth Avenue, Floor 2, Galleries 691–693
The Charles Z. Offin Gallery, Karen B. Cohen Gallery,
Harriette and Noel Levine Gallery; Gallery 851, Joyce
and Robert Menschel Hall for Modern Photography;
and Gallery 852, The Howard Gilman Gallery


On July 20, 1969, half a billion viewers around the world watched as the Apollo 11 mission beamed back to earth the first television footage of American astronauts on the moon. This groundbreaking moment dramatically influenced the history of images and expanded the bounds of human perception. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, The Metropolitan Museum of Art presents visual representations of the moon from the dawn of photography through the present in the exhibition Apollo’s Muse: The Moon in the Age of Photography. On view through September 22, the show features more than 170 photographs together with a selection of related drawings, prints, paintings, films, video art, astronomical instruments, and cameras used by Apollo astronauts.

The exhibition is made possible by OMEGA.

Additional support is provided by the Enterprise Holdings Endowment and The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation.

“The moon has long been a nearly universal source of fascination and inspiration,” said Max Hollein, Director of The Met. “This exhibition shows us how photography introduced new dimensions to its documentation and interpretation, and explores the tremendous impact that the 1969 moon landing had on artists of the time—the lasting effects of which still resonate today.”

Apollos MuseApollo’s Muse traces the progress of astronomical photography and attempts to produce ever-sharper images of the moon, particularly during the 130-year period between the invention of photography in 1839 and the moon landing in 1969 as astronomers and artists capitalized on technological improvements to cameras and telescopes to create ever more accurate visual records of the lunar surface. Exhibition highlights include two newly discovered lunar daguerreotypes from the 1840s, believed to be the earliest existing photographs of the moon, and works by such pioneers of lunar photography as Warren De La Rue (1815–1889), Lewis Morris Rutherfurd (1816–1892), and John Adams Whipple (1822–1891). A stunning photographic atlas of the moon, produced at the Paris Observatory between 1894 and 1908 by the astronomers Maurice Loewy (1833–1907) and Pierre Puiseux (1855–1928), is on display for the first time in its entirety.

Alongside these scientific achievements, the show explores the use of the camera to create fanciful depictions of space travel and life on the moon, including George Méliès’s (1861–1938) original drawings for his film A Trip to the Moon (Le Voyage dans la lune, 1902) and a large selection of “paper moon” studio portraits from the early 20th century. Also featured art artists’ evocations of the otherworldly effects of moonlight, including major works by German Romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840) and American Pictorialist photographer Edward Steichen (1879-1973).

Advances in rocket science and the Cold War space race of the 1960s ushered in a new phase of lunar exploration. The exhibition features stunning photographs captured by early lunar expeditions sent by the Soviet and American space programs, culminating in the crewed missions of the Apollo program. The final section of the show focuses on art created in the wake of the 1969 Moon landing through the present day, including works by Nancy Graves (1940–1995), Aleksandra Mir (born 1967), Nam June Paik (1932–2006), and Robert Rauschenberg (1925–2008).

Apollo’s Muse: The Moon in the Age of Photography is organized by Mia Fineman, Curator in the Department of Photographs, with contributions by Beth Saunders, Curator and Head of Special Collections and Gallery, Albin O. Kuhn Library & Gallery, University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue with essays by the curators and an introduction by Tom Hanks, a lifelong space enthusiast who has celebrated the legacy of Project Apollo as both an actor and documentary film producer.

The catalogue is made possible by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Apollos Muse

Related Programs

The exhibition is accompanied by a variety of education programs, including Art and Space, a week-long art-making workshop in the galleries, led by artist Jessica Houston (July 8-12, 11–4 pm daily). Career Lab—Apollo’s Muse: Art and Space will invite teens to explore careers in the arts with creative professionals as part of the Museum’s Career Labs program (July 12, 5–6:30 pm).  As part of The Met’s a Conversations With… series, exhibition curator, Mia Fineman, and research assistant, Virgnia McBride, will lead short conversations about and works in the exhibition in the Apollo’s Muse galleries (July 12, 6:30–8:30 pm). MetFridays—Moon Gazing with the Amateur Astronomers Association of New York will offer visitors the chance to observe and explore the summer sky with the Amateur Astronomers Association of New York and telescopes will be provided for a guided viewing from the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Roof Garden (July 12, 6:30–8:30 pm). To coincide with the exhibition, the ETHEL and Friends Balcony Bar music series will invite Australian cabaret performer Kim David Smith, with music direction by Tracy Stark, to present an intimate evening of performances inspired by the moon, celestial bodies, and lunar landscapes (July 27, 5–8 pm).

Education programs are made possible by Celestron.

The exhibition is featured on The Met website, as well as on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter via the hashtag #MetApollosMuse.

July 12, 2019


Neil Armstrong (American, 1930–2012). Astronaut Edwin E. Aldrin Jr. Walks on the Surface of the Moon, Apollo 11, July 16-24 1969 (detail), 1969, printed later. Dye transfer print, 16 1/8 x 16 3/8 in. (41 x 41.6 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, Alfred Stieglitz Society Gifts, 2017

John Adams Whipple, (American, 1822–1891), James Wallace Black, (American, 1825–1896), The Moon, 1857–60. Salted paper print from glass negative, 8 7⁄16 x 6 5⁄16 in. (21.4 x 16 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Robert O. Dougan Collection, Gift of Warner Communications Inc., 1981

Garry Winogrand, (American, 1928–1984), Apollo 11 Moon Shot, Cape Kennedy, Florida, 1969. Gelatin silver print, 10 ¾ x 15 ⅞ in. (27.3 x 40.4 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, Vital Projects Fund Inc. Gift, through Joyceand Robert Menschel, 2014 © The Estate of Garry Winogrand, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco


About: Dianne Budion Devitt

Dianne is an industry visionary and personality with global experience as a producer, events director, author, and speaker. She is also an Adjunct Professor at New York University, and is the founder of The DND Group, Inc. Passionate about the power of creativity and live experiences, she is an expert on providing creative inspiration and sharing her innate gift of seeing solutions to achieve corporate and business objectives with business leaders who influence and lead to inspire people to be the best version of themselves.As the former president of the International Live Events Association and Meeting Professionals International in New York City, Dianne has also served on national boards and been the recipient of numerous awards and recognitions. Dianne has produced or been part of the planning team for prestigious events including the Apollo 11 Moon Landing Anniversary, the Clinton Global Initiative, the Vietnam 50th Commemorative Presidential, the first European games in Baku, Azerbaijan.


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