Fly me to the moon in art and culture

The mythological moon

Fly me to the moon

On July 27, 2018 a rare dual celestial phenomenon occurred: a relatively long lunar eclipse or "blood moon" due to the moon's change in color while shadowed by earth, and the nearest approach of planet Mars in 15 years. The very rare cosmic coincidence had sky gazers out in force. Since the beginning of time, however, the moon has been revered for its magic, mystery and cultural significance.

The mythological moon

Religious symbolism and astrology

People have worshipped the moon since the beginning of time, structuring their lives around its patterns and revering its perceived forces. Sometimes time was counted in moons rather than days or months. The bronze Nebra sky disc, found in Saxony-Anhalt in 1999, represents the duality of early astronomy and spirituality. The disc is estimated to be 3700-4100 years old.

The mythological moon

The meaning of…

In the visual arts, the moon has been used to symbolize a variety of themes: innocence, the Virgin Mary, female sexuality. However, the overwhelming association has always been one of romance. Artists frequently looked to the moon for its magic, as displayed here in Caspar David Friedrich's "Two Men Contemplating the Moon" from 1820.

The mythological moon

Immortal muse of the poets

The moon has played a pivotal role in literature since time immemorial. In poetry, it's often used to express melancholy and longing — or often solace, as in Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's poem "To the Moon." The opening verse of the poem reads: "Bush and vale thou fill'st again / With thy misty ray / And my spirit's heavy chain / Castest far away."

The mythological moon

Howl at the moon

The moon may inspire owls and wolves to sing, but humans have also made a habit of howling at it. Famous examples include Matthias Claudius' beloved German lullaby "Gently the Moon has Risen," Elvis Presley's version of Rodgers and Hart's "Blue Moon" and Pink Floyd's seminal 1973 album "The Dark Side of the Moon."

The mythological moon

Horror and romance

Mark Twain once said "Everyone is a moon, and has a dark side which he never shows to anybody." Since ancient times, legends have abounded about people who turn into wolves at the full moon. The werewolf has been a perennial cinema favorite — as in "The Wolf Man" of 1941, pictured. But the moon has played a role in every genre, including romantic comedies like the 1987 romcom "Moonstruck."

The mythological moon

Blockbuster of the century

With the historic moon landing in 1969, the moon could well have lost its remaining secrets — and luster. Suddenly people were there, exploring its mysteries first-hand — and even taking photographs. Science, it seemed, had finally conquered the Earth's mysterious satellite.

The mythological moon

Eternal mystery

But the magic of the moon wasn't destroyed by its human conquest. Indeed, it still continues to inspire, and in 2013 Chinese artist Ai Weiwei and his Danish collaborator Ólafur Elíasson launched their "Moon" project. At www.moonmoonmoonmoon.com people can immortalize their own drawings of the moon. "Leave your fingerprint and see the shared moon grow as others reach out too," implores the website.

The successful landing of a Chinese probe on the far side of the moon has reawakened interest in our planet's nearest celestial neighbor. But the moon has fascinated artists for millennia.

Be it a super moon, blood moon or simple crescent: the moon has always been the sky's leading attraction. From the early days of antiquity through the Middle Ages and on to to today, there are countless testimonies to the mysterious celestial body.

20th century space exploration has only served to enhance the moon's mysterious power — and its essential place in romance. The moon continues to harbor a profound magical effect over both humans and animals.

As always, artists have been at the forefront in documenting this relationship between man and moon — from cave paintings to artifacts, oil paintings to cinema.

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