NCMA Recommends: Canal Scene in Moonlight

Attributed to Aert van der Neer, Canal Scene in Moonlight, circa 1660s, oil on canvas, 31 7/8 — 39 1/4 in., Purchased with funds from the State of North Carolina

Light and Art in Winter

Canal Scene in Moonlight, a Dutch painting done sometime in the 1660s, reveals how much light can be found in the darkness, even in the era before electric light. This scene was probably painted by Aert van der Neer, a master of nocturnal images such as this. Clouds part in the sky to reveal a bright full moon. The moonlight glistens intensely off the water of the canal at the painting’s center. It glints off windows, buildings, and trees, cutting through the ominous darkness of the cityscape. The moon’s work in illuminating this scene is helped by a woman emerging from a doorway at bottom left with a lit candle, further safeguarding and comforting the people and animals bustling around the canal. –Michele Frederick, Associate Curator of European Art and Provenance Research

Local Artist Connection

During a recent visit to the studio of Raleigh artist Alberto Ortega, he discussed the inspiration he derives from the study of centuries-old paintings. He also described the potential for mysterious stories that lie within paintings of nocturnal suburbia.

Winter Solstice Walk

Bundle up and come together as we honor the quiet beauty of the approaching winter season with a handmade paper lantern walk through the Museum Park on Saturday, December 18. Make your lantern at home to bring with you! Check out these ideas from the Hillsborough Arts Council and Red Ted Art.

Family Activities

From ancient to contemporary times, cultures around the world have marked the winter solstice in different ways. Traditions focus on the anticipation of the rising sun and the days getting longer. Make a lantern or sun and earth model to celebrate the beginning of a new season and the rebirth of the cycle.

Bright Store Picks

Enjoy the glow of the season with selections from community artisans at the Museum Store. AGLOW and Sweet Cherry candles from Usu Candle Company are perfect for a moonlit night. Indulge in winter-inspired soaps from sustainable and ethical 700 Rivers. And if you need to warm up, products from Oak City Hot Sauce might be just the thing.

Films in the Spotlight

Inspired by Canal Scene in Moonlight, we recommend three period films shot using natural light.

  • Barry Lyndon (1975). Director: Stanley Kubrick; cinematographer: John Alcott. This recounting of the exploits of an 18th-century Irish rogue uses candlelight to create the ambience of a palace in the 1700s. Rent on Amazon, YouTube, or iTunes.
  • Days of Heaven (1978). Director: Terrence Malick; cinematographer: N©stor Almendros. This love story that takes place on a wheat farm in 1910s Texas was shot using only natural light and fire. Rent on Amazon, YouTube, or iTunes.
  • The Revenant (2015). Director: Alejandro Gonz¡lez I±¡rritu; cinematographer: Emmanuel Lubezki. This thriller about a 1820s frontiersman fighting for survival was filmed using sunlight, moonlight, and fire. Rent on Amazon, YouTube, or iTunes.



Dec 10, 2021


All of the day


For More Information:
(919) 715-5923
Wednesday through Sunday, from 10 am to 5 pm

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top