I recently had what I think may have been a seminal Stateside experience. But this wasn’t me learning the bare-bones of American history or even starting to visit states other than our home (hello, Idaho). No. This seismic moment manifested itself in our kitchen one modest mid-week evening as I was standing over the stove. See, that’s when Husband handed me a MoonPie.
Now I’m aware I spent yesterday’s post extolling the virtues of careful, healthful consumption of foodstuffs. But honestly stuff that for one day. Because the MoonPie needs some serious air time here on Art 2010. For the non-knowers, it’s made up of two round digestive-like biscuits, glued together with gooey marshmallow and covered in a smooth carapace of chocolate. As such, the MoonPie sounds unpromising enough, but I have to say it wasn’t half bad.
Intrigued by the name, I did a little digging… Around 1910 a salesman, Earl Mitchell Sr., listened as miners near his Chattanooga, Tennessee bakery said they needed something solid and filling, as they didn’t get time to break for lunch. “About how big?” asked Mr Mitchell. “About that big!” said one miner, holding out his hands to frame the moon.
So what better artist for today than one who loved the moon more than anything else? Aert van der Neer (1603/4 – 1677) is a much-imitated Dutch landscape painter who specialized in two kinds of scene: either it was winter scenes with skaters, or it was nocturnal landscapes, lit by a burning building or the moon, as here. Moonlit Landscape with Bridge (c. 1650) nets Neer at the height of his painting powers, and what a moody moonlit scene this is.
The composition carves a lowish horizon-line that’s sets soaring a bushel of trees to the right. On the left is a village, whose roofs and clutter are balanced by a walled estate to the right. Aside from the silhouetted Dutch skyline, other things get lugubrious through the artist’s dark and tonal treatment of the scene. That said, against the murk and gloom come to glimmer pin-prick window panes and the stream, shining in the light. Also faintly unveiled are an elegant couple conversing to the right and a poor family, haggardly hunched, just crossing the bridge.
It’s a brilliant painting, if only for the fact that its impenetrability forces you to peer. The light effects are created through layers of translucent and opaque paint: with brush handle or palette knife, van der Neer scraped off top layers of dark color to uncover underlying lighter shades. So that’s where all the pulsing radiance comes from: that and a mini-moon that’s smaller by far than a three-inch Pie.