George Inness: Moonlight, 1885
person standing in a garden beneat full moon
George Inness
Moonlight, 1885
Oil on canvas on wood panel, 14 x 16 in.


In this atmospheric image, a lone woman in a flowing gown stands in a garden under a moonlit sky. The colors are dark and mysterious. To the right of the picture is the edge of a railing. Trees frame the landscape’s view and the reflection of the glowing moon. Romantic and poetic images like this were popular in the late 1800s. We cannot see the woman’s face, but we watch her contemplate the beautiful scene from afar and wonder what she is thinking. Inness uses lighting and color to create a calm, quiet, yet dramatic, mood.


George Inness was born in New York in 1825 and became regarded as one of the finest landscape artists of his time, known for his use of thin layers of oil paint to create rich light and color effects. He is associated with a group of landscape painters called the Hudson River School based on the region in which they lived and worked. Unlike other landscape painters of his day, Inness focused not on depicting the grandeur of the American wilderness, but on evocative scenes of picturesque towns, gardens, and farming areas. According to Inness, “A work of art does not appeal to the intellect. It does not appeal to the moral sense. Its aim is not to instruct, not to edify, but to awaken an emotion.”