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Until 23 June 2019
Watts Gallery

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Landing on Tuesday 2 April
Orbiting until Sunday 23 June 2019
Watts Gallery | Friends free

Join us in the year of the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing for Moonscapes, the first exhibition to explore nineteenth-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 will consider the Victorian fascination with the earth's closest cosmic neighbour, bringing into focus the many ways in which nineteenth-century artists have drawn inspiration from the moon. The exhibition will be accompanied by a programme of contemporary art interventions that will accent the key themes of the exhibition through light, sound and space including: Cosmoscope by Simeon Nelson with Rob Godman and Nick Rothwell; The Moon Cabinet by Rupert Senior; Artemis by Charlie Barton and Year 2 Arsenic 1 by Garry Fabian Miller and work by Mary Branson as Artist in Residence.

The appearance of the moon, and its changing phases, has been the subject of debate and visual interpretation since time immemorial. The development of astronomical telescopes in the seventeenth century sparked intense lunar interest in Britain, leading scientific pioneers to found the Royal Astronomical Society in 1820.

Artists were similarly beguiled by the complexities of the cosmos. Some, such as G F Watts, became closely associated with astronomers - in his case Sir John Herschel, President of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Artists were captivated by the painterly challenge of depicting nocturnal landscapes, and saw the moon as a symbol of nature's enormity. For Abraham Pether and his two painter sons, depicting the moon became the family business. Known as the 'Moonlight Pethers', their glowing landscapes balance detailed technique with intricate meteorological observation.

Conversely, Pre-Raphaelite artists such as William Holman Hunt sought to represent the eerie lunar atmosphere by portraying solitary figures in contemplation of the moon. Holman Hunt's luminous watercolour The Pathless Waters (Homeward Bound) 1869 captures this mood of nocturnal melancholy.

From the 1880s, oil paintings featuring the personification of the moon were produced by symbolist painters including Evelyn de Morgan and G F Watts. In De Morgan's Luna 1885 the moon is embodied by the figure of a young woman seated on a crescent, with the artist representing the Roman Goddess. Watts's dynamic vision for the creation of the cosmos is illustrated by the Sower of the Systems 1902, in which a robed, faceless figure sweeps across space, radiating arcs of gold to form galaxies.

Moonscapes will also examine the scientific tools that astronomers have used to expand lunar knowledge. From an intricate orrery (a mechanical model of the Solar System) to a globe mapping the moon's cratered surface, these complex and beautiful objects show how enterprising scientists attempted to decipher the mystery of the lunar orbits. Early stereoscopic photography will close the 384,400 km distance and bring the moon into focus in astonishing detail.

The exhibition features Cosmoscope, a monumental sound and light sculpture created by artist Simeon Nelson with Rob Godman and Nick Rothwell at the University of Hertfordshire's School of Creative Arts, who have kindly supported this artistic collaboration.

Look out for events and talks featuring leading experts, including Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock (BBC The Sky at Night), Robert Massey (astronomer), Professor Craig Underwood (Surrey Space Centre) and Dr Daniel Swift (writer).

We are deeply grateful to the members of our Exhibition Circle for supporting this exhibition.

Images: William H. Rau, Full Moon, albumen silver print mounted to stereographic card, Private Collection.

Evelyn De Morgan, Luna, 1885. De Morgan Foundation.

Event Details

Exhibition Tours

Tuesdays, 9 & 23 April, 14 & 28 May, 11 & 18 June
2 - 2.45pm | £5

Join an expert guide to explore Moonscapes in more detail, with an opportunity to ask questions and see the objects and paintings in close detail.

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Event Details

Moonscapes - Contemporary Art Interventions


The exhibition will be accompanied by a programme of contemporary art interventions that will accent the key themes of the exhibition through light, sound and space.

Find out more about the works and the artists who have made them.

Event Details


Moonscapes Mission

Saturday 6 April – Sunday 23 June

Go on a journey to the Moon with this fun family trail. Find a marvellous mechanical moon model, discover early photographs of the Moon and meet the Moon goddesses who fascinated and inspired artists.

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Watts Gallery is a registered Charity. Charity No. 313612. All profits help us to provide excellent educational activities, stage critically acclaimed exhibitions, and maintain our collection, buildings and estate for future generations to enjoy.

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