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Moondance. Full Moon in Painting


Moondance. Full Moon in Painting

This week sees the Vernal Equinox, when those of us who live in the Northern Hemisphere start to tilt towards the sun. The days begin to get longer, and Spring beckons. At the same time we get a supermoon – a full moon at its closest point to the Earth. In these magical times, let’s take a look at some wonderful artists who feature our celestial companion in a variety of settings across the ages.

Our title image is by Edvard Munch. The undulating coastline forms a counter-point to the strict vertical lines of the trees and that column of reflected moonlight. There are no people here, this painting is very much about mood and feeling.

William Turner

Full Moon in Painting

Joseph Mallord William Turner, Fishermen at Sea, 1796, Tate London

JMW Turner takes a very different approach. Here we see a stormy sea, lit by moonlight, the tiny human figures with their meagre lantern, very much at the mercy of nature. This was the first oil painting that Turner exhibited at the Royal Academy, fuelling a vogue for nocturnal paintings.

Henri Rousseau

Full Moon in Painting

Henri Rousseau, The Sleeping Gypsy, 1897, MOMA, New York, USA

Turning back to a more serene yet mysterious scene, we see a sleeping woman, visited by a lion, but who chooses not to harm her. Henri Rousseau was a mostly self taught painter, but his simple lines and fantastic imagery were immensely popular.

Vincent van Gogh

But where is Van Gogh, I hear you ask?! Well yes, he must surely appear in any list of moonlit paintings, his most famous perhaps being Starry Night. But actually that is a crescent moon, so sticking with our full moon theme, see instead this painting of a full moon rising over a wheat field. Scientists have actually been able to pinpoint the exact time this particular moon rose over that field: 9.08pm on 13th July 1889!

Full Moon in Painting

Vincent Van Gogh, Landscape With Wheat Sheaves and Rising Moon, 1889, Kroller Muller Museum, Netherlands, source wikimedia commons

Andō Hiroshige

Van Gogh (and many other Western artists) studied and reproduced the prints of Japanese artist Andō Hiroshige, who was considered the last great master of the ukiyo-e tradition. So let us end with his image featuring a waterfall falling in front of a magnificent moon.

Full Moon in Painting

Andō Hiroshige, The Moon Over A Waterfall, undated, c1797-1858, source: Wikimedia Commons

You might be in the mood to see also autumn moon in the Japanese woodblock prints!

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