In celebration of this year’s 50th anniversary of NASA’s successful Apollo 11 mission, Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West presents Paul Calle’s Life of Exploration: From the Mountains to the Moon. This exhibition shares the rich artistry of Calle’s work documenting epic moments in American history including Neil Armstrong’s first step on the moon, pioneers of the West, Major League Baseball World Series games and portraits of famous people including President John F. Kennedy, General Douglas MacArthur and the Beatles.
The exhibition, on view through Oct. 20, 2020, is among the first to commemorate Apollo 11’s 50th anniversary this year. A quote from Calle in the book Celebrating Apollo 11, The Artwork of Paul Calle, written by his son Chris Calle and published in 2009, can sum up this show.
“I have always likened the image of mountain man John Colter, his moccasin-clad foot first stepping on the newly fallen snow of the Yellowstone valley, to the moon boot of Neil Armstrong, stepping in the dust of the moon’s surface at the Sea of Tranquility …two worlds apart, yet each at the edge of a new frontier. …”
The exhibition presents the vast range of Calle’s artworks, his unique engagement with NASA and the U.S. Postal Service, and Calle’s position as a renowned sketch artist and realist painter.
The Artist, Paul Calle
This retrospective exhibition – the first-ever major showing of the artist’s work – traces the career of American artist Calle (1928-2010), who was best known for drawing and painting the historic American West featuring mountain men, fur traders and Native Americans, as well as NASA artwork and postage stamp designs including the iconic 1969 First Man on the Moon artwork and stamp.
While traveling in the American West for many years, Calle established friendships with Native Americans and observed some of their events and ceremonies. Early in his journeys, he witnessed a Hopi ceremonial dance, and he always remembered that moment, which shaped how he painted and depicted the Native American people throughout his entire career. Calle sought to honor their lives and culture through his artworks.
Calle was also an official NASA artist for many decades. In 1962, he was chosen as one of the original eight artists of the newly established NASA Art Program, with a mission to chronicle history and space exploration through the eyes of artists. Calle artistically covered pre-launch activities at Cape Canaveral, aircraft carriers picking up astronauts in the ocean, lift-offs and more across all NASA missions from Gemini to Apollo. His detailed paintings and powerful drawings became synonymous with the NASA program.
Calle was the only artist present on July 16, 1969, during the pre-launch activities of the successful Apollo 11 mission to the moon. That day he sketched various scenes including the crew’s breakfast, suiting up and the walk-out to the space craft – visual records of the historic day and these pre-flight activities. Several of these exclusive sketches will be included in the exhibition.
In addition to his work with NASA, Calle’s prolific career included numerous artworks of distinction created for renowned individuals and entities such as the U.S. Department of Interior Artists in the Parks program, the White House Historical Association, Schering Company, the U.S. Postal Service and the U.S. Air Force. He also created works for Major League Baseball, as well as a variety of medical and sports journals and popular titles such as Ladies’ Home Journal and The Saturday Evening Post.