In the year of the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing, this is the first exhibition to explore 19th-century visions of the moon.
Presenting a selection of works by significant artists including William Holman Hunt, John Atkinson Grimshaw, Evelyn de Morgan and G F Watts, Moonscapes considers the Victorian fascination with the earth’s closest cosmic neighbour, bringing into focus the many ways in which 19th-century artists have drawn inspiration from the moon.
Alongside the exhibition will be a programme of contemporary art interventions that accent the key themes of the exhibition through light, sound and space, including work by Artist in Residence, Mary Branson.
The appearance of the moon, and its changing phases, have been the subject of debate and visual interpretation since time immemorial. Following the development of astronomical telescopes in the 17th-century, scientists across the globe have observed the moon closely. Artists were similarly beguiled by the complexities of the cosmos and some became closely associated with astronomers, such as GF Watts and his friend Sir John Herschel, President of the Royal Astronomical Society.
Highlights of the exhibition include glowing lunar landscapes by Abraham Pether and his two painter sons, who were known as the ‘Moonlight Pethers’; William Holman Hunt’s watercolour The Pathless Waters (Homeward Bound) (1869) which captures the Pre-Raphaelites' mood of nocturnal melancholy; and oil paintings by symbolist painters concerned with the personification of the moon, such as Evelyn de Morgan's Luna (1885) and GF Watts’s dynamic vision for the creation of the cosmos, Sower of the Systems (1902).
Moonscapes also examines the scientific tools that astronomers have used to expand lunar knowledge, including an intricate orrery (a mechanical model of the Solar System) and a globe mapping the moon’s cratered surface. Early stereoscopic photography will close the 384,400 km distance and bring the moon into focus in astonishing detail.