The Moon Guide
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courtesy
U. S. N. O.
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The phase of the Moon right now

Phase
 
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The Weeders by Jules Breton
The Weeders, by Jules Breton (1868). Oil on canvas. Metropolitan Museum of Art, Bequest of Collis P. Huntington, 1900. www.metmuseum.org
The Moon in paintings and art

The Moon is a popular feature in painting, probably for the rather practical reason that it helps the artist to provide light in a night scene. However, there are some peculiarities about the way artists represent the Moon.
 
By far the most common representation of the Moon is when it is full. The next most common phase is the crescent, but other phases hardly feature at all. You can discover this for yourself by going through the works in the Tate Gallery online. Unfortunately we can't show them here for copyright reasons though we can provide the links for you to follow. Search the Tate Collection for the word 'Moon' and you get around 300 hits, though a number of these have nothing to do with the Moon itself. Many other art galleries have online collections which you can search in a similar way.

Of those where the Moon is represented clearly, 59 show a full Moon while 18 show a crescent. The vast majority of these works are by J M W Turner. In none of them are the lunar features, such as the Man in the Moon, clearly shown, but this isn't surprising as the Moon is there to provide light rather than be an important detail. Only two of the crescents are morning rather than evening crescents – again, not surprising. Only one of Turner's paintings shows what might be a gibbous Moon, but as his style was more impressionist than realistic, this may not be significant. No first-quarter Moons are seen.

One could argue that crescent and full Moons can be seen close to the horizon, whereas a first-quarter Moon is often higher up; but this wouldn't normally prevent an artist with a valid artist's licence from including it.

Engraving
In this engraving by an unknown artist,
the crescent Moon is shown with its
illuminated side away from the Sun
Artists often make mistakes about the appearance of the Moon. Sometimes, they show it in an impossible orientation, such as in the engraving shown ar right. Even Turner makes the mistake of seeing the Sun when on the horizon as larger than the Moon in his pencil sketch of  Study of the Sun about to Dip below the Horizon; Crescent Moon (circa 1845), the same error made by Jules Breton in the painting at the top of this page. Another that shows the crescent Moon is named Moonrise, whereas the Moon is an evening crescent which must be setting. 

Even film directors are not immune from being ignorant about the phases of the Moon. Steven Spielberg shows an unchanging morning crescent Moon several evenings  running in ET, for example. It's surprising that no-one on the production team realised that the Moon changes phase from night to night, or the difference between a morning and an evening crescent.
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Medieval woodcut

The Moon in popular song

Explore the Moon in stamps

View the stamps

The Moon in painting

 
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