Henri-Joseph Harpignies’s subjects come from the beloved forest scenes of Camille Corot and fellow Barbizon painters. Aiming for a formalized, highly artificial and sentimental evocation of natural
phenomena, he adhered to the French landscape tradition founded by Claude Lorrain. However, in the 1860s, he adopted a greater freedom and broadness of brushstrokes, and a palette governed by heightened contrasts both of colour and tone. Moonlight exemplifies his ability to synthesize diverse strains of landscape painting. It is typical of the style Harpignies mastered by the 1870s and continued to practise for the rest of his career. It shows an interest in strong contrasts of light and dark. Unlike his early paintings, characterized by smooth brushstrokes, here Harpignies used thick impasto and palette knife work to render the general “impression,” rather than exact detail.