Oil on canvas
Image size: 15 ¾ x 20 ½ inches (40 x 52 cm)
Original carved frame
Abraham Pether is recognised for his skill in depicting moonlit scenes. He was also a talented musician, inventor, mathematician and philosopher.
Abraham was born in Chichester and was a cousin of notable engraver William Pether. Adopting art as his profession, he became a pupil of George Smith, whom he greatly surpassed. He painted river and mountain scenery but his reputation rests on his moonlight subjects, which attracted much admiration. These earned for him the sobriquet of “Moonlight” Pether. He was inspired by the work of the eighteenth-century Dutch masters, emulating their skill in illustrating the illuminated effect of light reflection on water.
Abraham Pether is known in the art world as “Old” Pether, to distinguish him from his sons Sebastian Pether (1790–1844) and Henry Pether (1800–1880), also landscape artists who became known for their moonlit scenes. Abraham Pether’s ability to create this nocturne’s radiance was achieved by applying multiple layers of translucent and opaque paint.
Here, the luminous clouds have parted slightly to reveal most of the moon over a tranquil river. The moonlight reflects off the water, while fishermen in the foreground gaze at its intensity. The light helps the fishermen find safe passage to the riverbank, via the castle ruin which stands ominously by the water’s edge.
Abraham Pether was an English landscape painter, recognised for his skill in depicting moonlit scenes. He was also a talented musician, inventor, mathematician and philosopher. Pether was a major exhibitor with both the Free Society of Artists and the Incorporated Society of Artists from 1773 to 1791, and at the Royal Academy from 1784 to 1811.
His “Harvest Moon”, which was at the Academy in 1795, was highly praised at the time. He had an extensive knowledge of scientific subjects, and in his moonlight pictures the astronomical conditions are always correctly observed.