Our Mission

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone by Thomas Moran
Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone by Thomas Moran, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of George D. Pratt

In the 1800s, artists accompanied explorers into the frontiers of the Americas and sent back colorful images of the new lands. Paintings from Thomas Moran and Albert Bierstadt spurred further exploration of the West, and helped to preserve Yellowstone, Yosemite, and other areas as national parks. In 1872, Frederick Church, the highest paid painter of his day, financed his own expeditions to paint polar aurora, icebergs in the Arctic Sea, and volcanoes in South America. But soon, the Earth’s frontier lands disappeared and the link between art and exploration broke down.

Pluto image taken by New Horizons probe. Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI
Pluto image taken by New Horizons probe. Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

Today, we receive images from a new frontier that is rapidly expanding, planet to planet, into space. A new link is being forged by a new generation of exploration artists—Space Artists. Armed with science, creativity and imagination, they construct realistic images of visions throughout the Universe, from our Earth to the Stars. Not only realist; surrealist and impressionist styles are equally valuable in this adventurous and innovative field.

Space art serves the most basic function of fine art, that of inspiration. It directs our focus toward the space frontier, where human destiny inevitably lies. We are in the midst of a human adventure that will be remembered when the international squabbles of our century are long forgotten. We are stepping off ancestral earth and learning what wonders and resources are scattered throughout the starlit blackness of space. It is an adventure for artists, scientists and all mankind.

The IAAA was founded in 1982 by a small group of artists who journeyed through the fascinating but seldom trod territory where science and art overlap.

Vista Galactica by Kim Poor, FIAAA
Vista Galactica by Kim Poor, FIAAA

From these pioneering astronomical artists (unlike their colleagues in science fiction and fantasy, with whom they are sometimes confused by the uninitiated), a firm foundation of knowledge and research is the basis for each painting. Striving to accurately depict scenes which are at present beyond the range of human eyes, they communicate a binding dream of adventure and exploration as they focus on the final frontier—space.

Since its founding, the IAAA has grown to number over 130 members, representing twenty countries. Their work has also grown, to incorporate a number of styles and viewpoints. At times the art may step outside the bounds of scientific rendering, to address the broader implications that space poses for humanity. However, no matter which form of expression the artist chooses to take, the common inspirations held by all are astronomy and space exploration.

In addition to painting skills, the diverse allies of an astronomical artist include personal computers, NASA photographs, field geologists, space scientists, astronomers, astrophysicists, science writers, and travel agents… (of course, some artists may also hold positions as any of the above). They may find themselves in a training simulator at Johnson Space Center, exploring an active volcanic crater, such as in Iceland or Hawaii, studying the erosion patterns in Utah’s Canyonlands, or talking to an Apollo astronaut about subtleties of color in lunar shadows. Workshops are held, at which knowledge and techniques are shared, friendships among many nationalities are forged, at the same time as new landscapes are explored for future use (literally!).


From this fertile background of research and imagination comes the body of artwork known generally as the genré of SPACE ART.

The object of the IAAA, as a non-profit foundation, is to implement and participate in astronomical and space art projects, to promote education about astronomical art and to foster international cooperation in artistic work inspired by the exploration of the Universe.