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Aert van der Neer, Moonlit Estuary (c. 1640-1650)

For Artwork in Focus we explore individual artworks, critiquing their style and discussing their socio-political context. Today we look at Moonlit Estuary (c. 1640-1650) by Aert van der Neer.

About the Work

Title : Moonlit Estuary
Artist : Aert van der Neer
Year : c. 1640-1650
Medium : Oil on panel
Dimensions : 23 × 38 cm (9 1/16 × 14 15/16 in.)
Location : Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Moonlit Estuary

According to the digital catalogue of the Harvard Art Museums :

“Specializing in nocturnal scenes, Aert van der Neer painted imaginary views of nature, a genre of landscape painting first developed in Flanders in the mid-16th century.”

Aert van der Neer’s work depicts a vast expanse of landscape under a moonlit night. The silvery light shines through the clouds onto the estuary in the distance. The land is dotted with trees and shrubs. In the distance we see a building, perhaps a church, judging from its steeple-like silhouette. Next to the tree to the far right of the canvas stand two adults and one child, perhaps on their way home from work.

The moment captured by the artist is just when the sun has set. This is indicated by the pinkish orange hues in the sky and the light that shines over the hills in the distance. The clouds are still visible in the expanse of blue sky, as the moon peaks over the land

Other Details

Aert van der Neer’s Moonlit Estuary  is housed in the Harvard Art Museums in Room 2300, European and American Art, 17th–19th century. It is part of the museum’s collection of the The Arts in theSeventeenth–Century Dutch and Flemish Art.


To learn more about iconic artworks and their socio-political context, visit Artwork in Focus.

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