Executed in 1878, Moonlight demonstrates William Trost Richards at the height of his abilities as a watercolorist. He masterfully manipulates delicate washes of color to capture the effects of light and atmosphere on the coastline in this luminous evening reverie. Most likely depicting Twin Lights on Cape Anne, Rockport, Massachusetts, the present work is exemplary of his watercolors from the period.
Richards was equally skilled in oil and watercolor, a testament to his artistic prowess. Linda S. Ferber wrote of his adoption of watercolor after years of painting in oil, "William T. Richards was one of a number of American artists who began to work in watercolor with increasing frequency in the late 1860s. He developed the medium as a specialty in the following decade, arguably the richest period of his watercolor production. While landscape subjects-Richard's focus as a painter in oils during the first twenty years of his career-were also treated in watercolor, the artist's turn to the medium is inextricable linked to his growing interest in the shore. By 1870, watercolor was established in Richards' repertoire as a major mode of expression for the varieties of coastal topography and atmospheric effects that dominated his work in both media from 1870 on." ("William T. Richards (1833-1905): Watercolor Painter," Watercolors by William Trost Richards, exhibition catalogue, New York, 1989, p. 4)