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Moonlight falls across several masted ships near a rocky shoreline in this horizontal painting. The sky fills the top three-quarters of the picture. A veil of slate-gray clouds is lit to pearl white around the crisp, full moon at the center of the composition. Patches of denim-blue sky are seen through breaks in the blanket of clouds. Moonlight reflects down the center of rippling, silvery-gray water that laps against a beach close to us, along the bottom edge of the painting. A tent is set up in the lower left corner of the composition. There, two women and one man stand looking at a glowing fire next to the tent. One woman holds a basket on her head, the other tucks a flat basket under one arm. The man stands between the two women, and a fourth man crouches near the fire, his back to us. In the opening of the tent, another woman kneels over a large bowl as she looks at the fire. A fifth person, a man, gazes at the fire as he sits smoking a long-stemmed pipe on a boulder. At the foot of the boulders, a man lies back against some bundles, one arm thrown up over his head. A dog curls up next to his hip. Not far from the sleeping man and in the center of the foreground, a man carries several long wooden objects, possibly oars, over one shoulder while a dog beyond him barks at the lapping surf. The beach curves like a C away from us, along the left. At the point of the curve in the middle distance, a structure like a city wall and gate jut out to the water’s edge. More buildings atop steep cliffs rise vertically beyond the gate. The shoreline curves into the distance again, and more buildings, including a lighthouse, and masted ships there are smoke-gray silhouettes. Near the lower right corner of the painting, four men pull on ropes tied around the prow of a small wooden boat while three others push it toward the land. Another man stands in the far end. A short distance beyond that boat is a tall wooden ship with three masts and rigging outlined against the night sky. Windows along the decks of that boat’s wide stern, angled toward us, glow with golden light. Beyond it and a bit to our left, another ship, smaller in scale, sails away from us. Several more ships move back to the horizon until we only see strokes of white and gray to indicate their unfurled sails.

Claude-Joseph Vernet, Moonlight, 1772, oil on canvas, Chester Dale Fund and Patrons' Permanent Fund, 2018.13.1

The Art of Looking

The Art of Looking

  • Friday, January 29, 2021
  • 1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.
  • Talks Redirect
  • Virtual
  • Registration Required

By sharing observations, interpretations, questions, and ideas, participants build on their own first impressions and broaden their understanding about a single work of art in each meeting. Each session lasts one hour and is completely interactive. Gallery educators will facilitate the conversation to create an environment for shared learning. These conversations will encourage you to engage deeply with art, with others, and with the world around you as you hone skills in visual literacy and perspective-taking.

The program is designed for everyone interested in talking about art. No art or art history background is required.

This program is free and open to the public. Ages 18 and over.

For more information, contact Lorena Bradford at [email protected].

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