Moon Shadow: Quick Bite

Oh, I’m being followed by a moon shadow, moon shadow, moon shadow.
Leaping and hopping on a moon shadow, moon shadow, moon shadow.
~ Excerpt from MoonShadow (1970) by Cat Stevens, (aka Yusuf Islam)

We’re chasing shadows today on Museum Quick Bites…moon shadows. Moonlit Landscape with a Windmill (c1650s) by Dutch painter, Aert van der Neer is a nocturnal delight. Cast against a turbulent sky, puffy pink and gray clouds churn above, while the moon plays hide and seek behind a lone windmill.

Moonlit Landscape with a Windmill (c1650-1655)
by Aert van der Neer Detroit Institute of Arts

At first glance you may think this painting is dark and dreary. But look closer, van der Neer’s painting is alive with activity. Moving from left to right, notice the haphazard pile of logs and silhouette of a Dutch village in the background.

In the foreground, a man and dog walk alongside a rickety fence. Perhaps they’re leaping and hopping on a moon shadow?

Off to the right a pair of fishermen sit hunched in their boats, while another has set sail down the canal. The lack of leaves on the tree indicates a chillier season, when daylight is in short supply.

It is unclear if van der Neer’s painting is set in the pre-dawn hours or well after sunset. Regardless, the entire scene is magical and gives us a glimpse into 17th century Dutch life. What else do you see?

Fun Moony Fact:  The phrase, once in a blue moon, means something rare. The phrase also refers to the occurrence of a second full moon within a calendar month. This month (October 2020) we will experience a blue moon. The full Harvest Moon occurred on October 1st, and the full Hunter’s Moon (aka blue moon) will arrive on Halloween. The moon does not actually appear blue, although this can happen when particles in the atmosphere, like volcanic ash or ash from wildfires, scatter red light. To learn more moony facts, click on this Blue Moon link, courtesy of

Aert van der Neer (c1603-1677) was born in the Dutch town of Gorinchem. He initially worked as a steward, managing the affairs of a local estate, but in his spare time, van der Neer liked to paint. Under the tutelage of his brother-in-law, landscape painter, Rafaël Govertsz Camphuysen (1597–1657), van der Neer became a skilled artist. In 1630, he moved with his wife, Lysbeth, to Amsterdam so he could paint full time.

River View by Moonlight (c1640-1650)
by Aert van der Neer, Rijksmuseum

Primarily a landscape artist, van der Neer was a master of light. His work features scenes of the Netherland’s trademark canals at sunrise, sunset or bathed in moonlight.

Sports on a Frozen River (c1660)
by Aert van der Neer, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Although van der Neer was not well known during his lifetime, he was successful enough to open a tavern with his son, Jan, in 1658. However, within four years, their business went bankrupt and van der Neer was forced to sell many of his possessions, including his paintings, to pay off their debts. Despite this misfortune, van der Neer continued to paint. He died in poverty 15 years later, at the age of 74. If you’d like to view more of his work click on this Aert van der Neer link, courtesy of the Rijksmuseum, and also this Aert van der Neer link, courtesy of Google Arts & Culture.

Landscape at Sunset (c1650s)
by Aert van der Neer, Metropolitan Museum of Art

That wraps up our walk in the moonlight. If you’re like me and have Cat Stevens’s (aka Yusuf Islam) MoonShadow running through in your head, click on this MoonShadow by Cat Stevens link, courtesy of YouTube, and have a listen. I’ll be back next week with another installment of Museum Quick Bites. Until then, be safe, be kind and take care 🙂

Cover photo courtesy of Pixabay.


Britannica: Aert van der Neer

Detroit Institute of Arts: Moonlit Landscape with Windmill (c1650s) by Aert van der Neer

Google Arts & Culture: Aert van der Neer

J. Paul Getty Museum: Aert van der Neer

Metropolitan Museum of Art: Landscape at Sunset (c1650) by Aert van der Neer

National Gallery: Aert van der Neer


Rijksmuseum: Aert van der Neer

RKD Netherlands Institute for Art History: Aert van der Neer Blue Moon

Wikimedia Commons: Aert van der Neer

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