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lively color to them, and so much incred-
ible detail. They were striking to me and
showed a side of the American West—the
fur trappers, specifically—that was very
interesting,” Peterson says. “Later I would
become friends with Paul and enjoyed being
around him. He was very opinionated, but
he also had a softer side. And his career
was incredible. He had worked for NASA,
sketched the astronauts, fl ew on Air Force
One, met presidents and so much more.”
Peterson, who kept the artist busy with
commissions for more than a dozen years,
has what might be the largest collection
of Calle works. One of them in the exhibit,
Something for the Pot II, was commissioned
by Peterson to duplicate a Calle print he
had seen as a boy. It is one of the prized
works from his collection.
Chris Calle, Paul’s son, has loaned
several works for the exhibition, including
sketches from the Apollo 11 moon launch,
from which Paul had exclusive access to
the astronauts and equipment leading
up to the historical moon mission. Paul
had a lengthy career at NASA as a sketch
artist—one that spanned Mercury, Gemini
and Apollo missions into space—but his
access on Apollo 11 was game changing
for him as an artist.
“When it was fi rst proposed, the NASA
sketch artists would not be intrusive. They
wouldn’t get in anyone’s face. They would
be a fl y on the wall, and that’s what my dad
did from the time he started in 1962. By
the time Apollo 11 rolled around, all the
NASA artists wanted in on it. They would
get together before the launches and talk,
and they all really wanted to be in the
room for Apollo 11. My dad didn’t let on
that they had asked him to do it. Finally,
he said, ‘There’s going to be someone in
there with them, and it’s going to be me,’”
Chris says. “He was in the room with the
crew when they were eating breakfast the
morning of the launch. He sketched them
there and while they were suiting up. And
then rode with them to the launch site. He
had VIP access. And sketched everything
in brilliant, but also unforgiving, pen and
ink. He would do sketches that took just
a minute or two each, pages and pages of
them. It’s amazing to look at his sketch-
books today.”
Recently, Chris had the chance to play
his father, who died in 2010, in Damien
Chazelle’s fi lm First Man, which chronicles
the mission to the moon and stars Ryan
Gosling as Armstrong. Chris, an artist
himself, used his father’s sketchbooks
and other items in a scene re-creating the
morning of the launch. Paul’s sketches,
and later his paintings, of Apollo 11 would
become postage stamps, some of the
most popular and reproduced images in
American history. He would also paint
numerous American presidents, including
John F. Kennedy.
“My hope with the retrospective is
that people realize Paul portrayed what
American is all about,” Peterson adds.
“From NASA to the American West, there’s
a rich history in what he did. He really was
an American artists in the truest form.”
The Great Moment, ca. 1969, oil on Masonite.
Collection of the Orlando Museum of Art. Gift of Dr.
and Mrs. John J. McMullen. © The Paul Calle Estate.
JFK, graphite on paper. Collection of Katherine J.
Calle and Jessica C. Frisina.
1969 First Man on the Moon Stamp, original
pencil sketch, graphite on paper, postage stamp.
Collection of Lawrence McGlynn.
Power to Go, 1969, oil on panel. Smithsonian National
Air and Space Museum, Washington, D.C. © The Paul
Calle Estate.
Something for the Pot II, oil on canvas.
Courtesy the Peterson Family Collection.

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