Edward M. Bannister (American, 1828-1901), Moonlight Marine, 1885, Oil on canvas, 32 9/16″H x 40¾”W, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. J. Harwood and Louise B. Cochrane Fund for American Art. Photo: Katherine Wetzel © Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

In 2019, we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first human landing on the moon. However, American artists were celebrating and documenting our closest celestial body, long before the landing in 1969.

The moon, like the sun, are a daily constant, moving across our sky every day and night. Their movement and their presence are so consistent that we often take them for granted. We forget that they shape our sense of time. We rise in the morning with the sun and slumber when the only light is that from the moon.

The moon is the easiest celestial body to find and identify in the night sky. It is amazing how it can appear full and bright, only to seemingly disappear a few days later. These phases help to define our calendar and some say that they also define our moods. The moon is so powerful in our lives and in so many different aspects. It can be a symbol that appears in mythology, folklore, literature, poetry, music, theater, history, and religion all over the world.

In the exhibition, The Color of the Moon: Lunar Painting in American Art, we explore how the moon has inspired art and how artists have represented it through the years. See the romantic to the moody moon, along with its different colors and interpretations. During your visit, use some activities sheets to help you learn more about the works on display.

Download activity sheets below: