Ralph Albert Blakelock consistently painted landscapes throughout his career. His early paintings were akin to the Hudson River Valley School, best known for grandiose yet faithful representations of nature. However, by the 1870s, Blakelock’s images became much more melancholic and imbued with sensitivity and emotion. Moonlight, painted between 1885 and 1895, was a theme that the artist visited over and over again to explore his acute awareness of nighttime.
In Moonlight, the artist has eliminated a sense of place; to Blakelock, nature is “subjective and inventive.” The image of the moon, glowing and eerie, is seen through a thick veil of trees silhouetted against the moonlight. Blakelock disregarded perspective by eliminating the horizon line. His frenetic brushwork heightens the mysterious sense of nighttime, blurring the line between trees and sky, and reality and imagination. The painting’s subtle ambience enhances the emotions that exist within the canvas, imbued with Blakelock’s enchanting and enigmatic vision of the night.