Although simplistic in design the image is also stylised, displaying the symbolism Munch used in his painting. Symbolist artists did not use light in their work to show the exterior world, looking instead to use it to delve deeper and inward in order to explore human themes. There are contrasts in both form and colour within Munch's painting of Moonlight. The curves of the sandy beach are offset by the stark straightness of the trees, while the colours are subdued by the night time light. There is no human presence, the striking pillar of moonlight being the focal point instead. Moonlight represents a mood of nature, a snapshot of natural tranquillity without any human intervention. Edward Munch was inspired by nature and the coastal landscapes he saw, with nature a regular theme in his paintings from the 1890s onward.
Edward Munch was influenced by impressionists such as Claude Monet, as well as neo-impressionists like Paul Gauguin and Vincent Van Gogh. Indeed there are similarities of the attraction to nature as a theme by Munch and Van Gogh, both using the landscapes close to where they lived as inspiration for their work. Yet Munch also often used similar imagery within different paintings. Munch’s painting The Voice is strikingly alike in theme to Moonlight with the exception of the presence of a woman as the painting’s focal point. In Moonlight nature is dominant in the starring role. Moonlight is not a work depicting action, rather one of mood. In his lifetime Munch was often preoccupied on the theme of human mortality.
In Moonlight he removes the human presence but in his use of a pillar of moonlight, vertical trees and the gentle curves of the sand he retains the notion of the masculine and the feminine. Though simplistic and tranquil in appearance, Moonlight still conveys an element of mystery, the feeling that this tranquillity could be disturbed at any given point. Munch used intense colours in his art to express thoughts and feelings. His work was often influenced by his own personal anguish and perhaps nature was a calming force. Although highly personal his work would inspire other artists and in particular the German expressionists. Moonlight is now held by Norway's National Museum where it was incorporated in to their collection in 1970.