Nocturnes: Night Skies in Nineteenth-Century Art and The Darker Side of Modern Art

UNI Gallery of Art
Kamerick Art Building, University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, IA

Nocturnes traces artists’ portrayals of night skies from the mid-nineteenth century up to the present. The night sky has always instilled a sense of wonder and curiosity in earthbound observers, while moonlight has long been associated with illusions, apparitions, and enchantment. The artworks displayed explore our enduring human interest in observing atmospheric phenomena, illuminated cityscapes, and phantasmagoria that emerge from darkness. The Nocturnes artists capture the effect of lustrous moonlight on sublime landscapes, the garish glow of gaslight, and renditions of surreal and cosmic universes. This exhibition guides us into the starlit skies that inspired Romantic introspection and otherworldly visions in the nineteenth century and fantastical depictions of lunar radiance in the twentieth, and that continue to compel us to dream.

This exhibition was curated by Alice M. Phillips, PhD, and was organized by Sarika Sugla, MFA, for Legacies for Iowa: A University of Iowa Museum of Art Collections-Sharing Project, supported by the Matthew Bucksbaum Family.


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Leopold Hugo (American, 1860–1933)


, c. 1900
Gelatin silver print, 5 x 7 in.
Gift of Dr. Neal Kassell, 1981.105