During the last twenty-five years of Charles Burchfield’s career, he made a conscious decision to abandon his realist paintings and paint a blend of nature and fantasy. His goal was to evoke a sense of wonder through his images. Burchfield was raised in an evangelical family, yet struggled with religion most of his life. Toward the end of his life, Burchfield accepted his religion and God and his paintings reflected his spirituality.
December Moonrise was painted during the last ten years of his life, often referred to as the “Transcendental Phase.” During this period, he reflected on his earlier paintings of the later 1910s and early 1920s that celebrate nature. Burchfield looked at these works as a guide, a reference note, but wished to transcend beyond these, simply put, pretty landscapes to something that evoked an otherworldly aura. Though the painting is titled December Moonrise, there is no moon shown. Burchfield used his color palette to convey the golden sun along the horizon, as the sky turns darker with stars starting to twinkle. Burchfield exploited the medium of watercolor to create luminous layers of color and arouse a sense of spirituality within the viewer.