In addition to the “Apollo 11 Codices”, the National Air and Space Museum holds approximately 150 works by the artist Mitchell Jamieson (1915 – 1976). The “Apollo 11 Codices” exemplify Jamieson’s journalistic style of painting, which was one reason NASA brought him into its Fine Art Program. Aboard the U.S.S. Hornet, Jamieson sketched the seamen working to recover the capsule and crew from the successful Apollo 11 mission. Jamieson was known for his depictions of the onlookers at major events rather than the events themselves. This style allows the viewer to believe that they are there as part of the crowd, feeling the energy and excitement.
Three of Jamieson’s works are traveling as part of the exhibition “NASA Art: Fifty Years of Exploration” organized by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) in cooperation with NASA and the National Air and Space Museum. Two of his paintings hang on the third floor of the Museum, including “There!” near the Director’s office. A painting on board, “There!,” shows the seamen aboard the U.S.S. Hornet pointing to the sky, seeing the Columbia command module descending on its parachute. As with his sketches in “Apollo 11 Codices,” he allows us to join in the excitement of this great moment of human achievement.
Before World War II, Secretary of the Interior, Harold Ickes commissioned Jamieson to paint a mural for the new Interior Building depicting the Marian Anderson concert on the National Mall entitled “An Incident in Contemporary American Life”. Ickes and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt had organized this concert after Marian Anderson was denied singing at Constitution Hall due to the color of her skin. In the mural, Jamieson concentrates on the crowd— even giving us portraits of individuals that we would be standing next to—straining to hear the concert which inaugurated the use of the Lincoln Memorial as a sight for civil rights protests.
Jamieson, who was born in Kensington, Maryland and studied at the Corcoran School, was an official combat artist for the U.S. Navy during World War II, where he depicted the invasion of Sicily, the invasion at Normandy, as well as the Japanese surrender on board the U.S.S. Missouri. Jamieson was awarded the Bronze Star by the U.S. Navy for his work. In addition to his renderings for NASA of Apollo recoveries, Jamieson covered Mercury missions as well as a Saturn launch.
Jamieson volunteered as a civilian artist for the U.S. Army in Vietnam. This effort took an enormous toll from which he was not to recover. In 1976 he took his own life.
Sources: biographies from the Archives of AskArt and the Navy Museum.
Hunter Hollins is Loan Manager for the Space History Division of the National Air and Space Museum.