The motif of the bridge, while evoking the idyllic landscapes of the French master, Nicolas Poussin, takes on added significance in American art as a symbol of movement and change. As cities grew, bridges were often among the first structures built, their spare designs helping to transform the face of the American landscape from rural to urban. Lawson's carefully observed paintings documenting this change conveyed his delight in commonplace views and objects—an old boat, a frail tree, grasses growing along the river's edge.
High Bridge—Early Moon of around 1910 dates from Lawson's early period (between 1898 and 1915, when he lived for a time in Washington Heights, at the northern tip of Manhattan. Having left the area in 1906 when he moved to Greenwich Village, the artist often returned to paint his favorite sites until about 1916. High Bridge—Early Moon represents the High Bridge, which was modeled after a Roman aqueduct and which crosses the Harlem River at 174th Street. While the delicately applied pigments and diaphanous haze of High Bridge—Early Moon reflect Lawson's dreamily impressionist style, the brushstrokes that define the foreground rocks introduce structural blocks hinting at his awareness of Cézanne and that avant-garde painter’s innovative style, based on a patchwork of small colored brushstrokes. Duncan Phillips, however, did not respond to such technical innovation but instead was attracted to the painting's emotional appeal, which at that time he considered an indispensable quality of art. One can sense his delight when he describes the painting: "...an apricot gleam is reflected in the river mingling with the emerald shadows of the shore.... We dream and rest, thrilled yet quieted by all the color."