Sunsets and Sunrises in Art and Illustration

Norman Mills Price (1877 - 1951) boat with sunset

Natalie awoke the next morning to bright sun and clear air, to the gentle movement of her bedroom curtains, to the patterned dancing of the light on the floor; she lay quietly, appreciating the morning in the clear uncomplicated movement vouchsafed occasionally before consciousness returned. Then, with the darkening of the sunlight, the sudden coldness of the day, she was awake and, before perceiving clearly why, she buried her head in the pillow and said, half-aloud, ‘No, please no’.

from Hangsaman by Shirley Jackson

The heavens opened for the sunset to-night. When I had thought the day folded and sealed, came a burst of heavenly bright petals.

Katherine Mansfield, Journal of Katherine Mansfield

ANALYSIS

In this passage, all as brightness and cleanliness, the “gentle” movements as the curtains sway in the breeze, light from the sun creating pattern on the floor, reflects the room’s atmosphere as one misaligned with Natalie’s emotions. The space may feel welcoming and still, and the terms Jackson selects to describe this morning after are alarmingly pleasant. Yet, as the passage continues, a sudden jolt from the established comfort moves the room to darkness and coldness. Like storm clouds obstructing sunlight, the room changes its atmosphere. Natalie’s waking up is the moment when which the room changes: Not only does the girl wake up from her dreams, crossing the divide from the unconscious to conscious, but she also begins to encounter the precipitating moment of trauma. There are no doors for Natalie after this trauma, an inability to exit or enter into a space that is not somehow associated with control or defined roles. Her desire for a cleansed and hollow home, ready to be filled in and cared for manifests in the dorm room setting, a space where Natalie attempts to control her surroundings.

“Homespun” Horror: Shirley Jackson’s Domestic Doubling by Hannah Phillips
Julian Walbridge Rix (1850 - 1903) Sunset in Yosemite
Julian Walbridge Rix (1850 – 1903) Sunset in Yosemite

If you compare the painting below to the painting above, it’s clear how closely the human construction of the cathedral draws inspiration from natural features; most often forests, but also in rock formations.

‘Sunset’ by Artist Ivan Xiaotu. Watercolour Cityscape
‘Sunset’ by Artist Ivan Xiaotu. Watercolour Cityscape
Toshi Yoshida (1911-1995) New Year’s Morning in Ginza, 1958
Alphonse Osbert (1857-1939) The Muse At Sunrise 1918
René Magritte (1898-1967) The Banquet c1955
Anders Andersen-Lundby (1840-1923) A Winter Scene In The Evening Red, 1993
Tom Roberts…..1856 -1931 Going Home 1889
Sunset Theodor Kittelsen 1907
Sunset Theodor Kittelsen 1907
Kittelsen, Norway, Far, far away Soria Moria Palace shimmered like Gold, 1900 Ash-lad figure is well-known in Norwegian fairytales
Mount Andersnatten by Soneren Theodor Kittelsen
Mount Andersnatten by Soneren Theodor Kittelsen
Andersnatten, 1908, Theodor Kittelsen
Andersnatten, 1908, Theodor Kittelsen
Plowed Field (1830) by Caspar David Friedrich (German, 1774-1840). Kunsthalle Hamburger
Plowed Field (1830) by Caspar David Friedrich (German, 1774-1840). Kunsthalle Hamburger
Atkinson Grimshaw - The Haunt of the Heron
Atkinson Grimshaw – The Haunt of the Heron
Dawn. The Kingdom of Birds (1906) by Józef Chełmoński (Polish, 1849–1914)
Dawn. The Kingdom of Birds (1906) by Józef Chełmoński (Polish, 1849–1914)
Mountain Stream in the Moonlight by Albert Rieger
Mountain Stream in the Moonlight by Albert Rieger

When Col’s childhood imaginary friends come to life, he discovers a world where myths and legends are real. Accompanied by his guardians – a six-foot tiger, a badger in a waistcoat and a miniature knight – Col must race to Blitz-bombed London to save his sister.

But there are darker forces at work, even than the Nazi bombings. Soon Col is pursued by the terrifying Midwinter King, who is determined to bring an eternal darkness down over everything.

Ivan Bilibin (1876-1942) This is a 1906 illustration called “Fairy Forest at Sunset”

Twins Arthur and Rose can’t wait to go back to Roar, the fantasy world they get to through their grandad’s attic. Roar is a land of dragons, mermaids, unicorns, ninja wizards and where anything they can imagine can be real.

But when they return there’s no time for exploring, because a message arrives from their scarecrow enemy, Crowky.

WHAT’S IN THE BOX?

The Box would always contain the things that scared the twins most – and if Crowky gets hold of it, Roar could be in more danger than ever.

Soon they find themselves on another thrilling adventure, accompanied by old friends and new faces and seeing parts of Roar they’d almost forgotten. But will they get to the box before Crowky does? And if it opens, what will they see?

Sam Timm, wildlife painter from Winsconsin birds sunrise
Sam Timm, wildlife painter from Winsconsin
Sports Afield October 1937
Jenny Nystrøm (Swedish,1854-1946) The Gate Keeper sunset
Jenny Nystrøm (Swedish illustrator, 1854-1946) “The Gate Keeper”
The New Children's Bible

It is the story of four seekers who arrive at a notoriously unfriendly pile called Hill House: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of a “haunting”; Theodora, the lighthearted assistant; Eleanor, a friendless, fragile young woman well acquainted with poltergeists; and Luke, the future heir of Hill House. At first, their stay seems destined to be merely a spooky encounter with inexplicable phenomena. But Hill House is gathering its powers—and soon it will choose one of them to make its own.

Bettina Baldassari - Italian sunset
Bettina Baldassari – Italian artist
Murder After Christmas by Rupert Latimer 1944 sunset
Murder After Christmas by Rupert Latimer 1944
Ida Rentoul Outhwaite 1929 'Fairyland'
Ida Rentoul Outhwaite 1929 ‘Fairyland’
Claude Monet (French, 1840-1926) La Creuse, setting sun, 1889
Matthew Ridley Corbet Val d’Arno- Evening exhibited 1901
Matthew Ridley Corbet Val d’Arno- Evening exhibited 1901
Syd Mead
‘Our Little Friends of Eskimo Land Papik and Natsek ‘ by Frances Carpenter published 1931
Maynard Dixon (1875 - 1946), Sunset Magazine November, November 1904, lithograph on paper cowboy gun
Maynard Dixon (1875 – 1946), Sunset Magazine November, November 1904, lithograph on paper
Félix Vallotton (1865–1925)
Félix Vallotton (1865–1925)
Félix Vallotton (1865–1925)
RUMPUMPEL (1903) Karl Hofer
“Rumpumpel” (1903) by Karl Hofer
Woodblock engraving by Émile Antoine Verpilleux (1888 – 1964), “Winter Sunset” 1928.
Bugatti Type 13  Georges Bourdin C 1911
“Bugatti Type 13” by Georges Bourdin ca. 1911
Little Sunny Stories by Johnny Gruelle
Little Sunny Stories by Johnny Gruelle
Sunset in the Forest (1904) by Ivan Trush (Ukrainian, 1869-1941)
Sunset in the Forest (1904) by Ivan Trush (Ukrainian, 1869-1941)
Cover illustration by Arthur Getz, 1970. A sunset from a city rooftop with beautiful use of negative space.
Cover illustration by Arthur Getz, 1970. A sunset from a city rooftop with beautiful use of negative space.
The Romance of Tristan and Iseult illustrated by Maurice Lalau 1910 arches
The Romance of Tristan and Iseult illustrated by Maurice Lalau 1910 arches
Seas and Lands by Sir Edwin Arnold, London 1891
Seas and Lands by Sir Edwin Arnold, London 1891
Sunset at Aquinnah, Martha's Vinyard, Massachusetts (1894) by Hendrik Willem Mesdag (Dutch, 1831-1915)
Sunset at Aquinnah, Martha’s Vinyard, Massachusetts (1894) by Hendrik Willem Mesdag (Dutch, 1831-1915)
H.B. Griggs illustration, published by the New York City firm of Leubrie & Elkus sometime between 1911 and 1920
H.B. Griggs illustration, published by the New York City firm of Leubrie & Elkus sometime between 1911 and 1920
Cover Art for Harper's Bazaar, March 1919 by Erté. (Romain de Tirtoff (1892 – 1990) Russian-born French artist and designer
Cover Art for Harper’s Bazaar, March 1919 by Erté. (Romain de Tirtoff (1892 – 1990) Russian-born French artist and designer
James Downie
James Downie
James Downie
James Downie
Gilly Johns - British sunset
Gilly Johns – British sunset
Brian Cook (1910 - 1991) 1934 illustration for the book 'The Face Of Scotland' by Harry Batsford and Charles Fry
Brian Cook (1910 – 1991) 1934 illustration for the book ‘The Face Of Scotland’ by Harry Batsford and Charles Fry
Dino Pelagatti (1932-2016) Italian sunset
Dino Pelagatti (1932-2016) Italian
Karen Mathison Schmidt - American sunset
Karen Mathison Schmidt – American. This painting has a stained glass look to it.
Michael O'Toole
Michael O’Toole
Michael O'Toole
Michael O’Toole
Daniel Garber (American, 1830 - 1946) sunset
Daniel Garber (American, 1830 – 1946) sunset
Howard Russell Butler - The Seaweed Gatherers sunset
Howard Russell Butler – The Seaweed Gatherers
William Steig New Yorker Cover
Richard T. Scott, b.1980 American Painting of Norwegian artist, Odd Nerdrum and American artist Andrew Wyeth. The symbolism of this painting is clear: two elderly people walking towards the ‘sunset’ of their life.
Hannes Bok, pseudonym for Wayne Francis Woodard (1914 – 1964) boat
Hannes Bok, pseudonym for Wayne Francis Woodard (1914 – 1964)
Hannes Bok, pseudonym for Wayne Francis Woodard (1914 – 1964) flying
Hannes Bok, pseudonym for Wayne Francis Woodard (1914 – 1964)
Gil Miret for ‘The Farmer and the Witch’ 1966 by Ida DeLage
Gil Miret for ‘The Farmer and the Witch’ 1966 by Ida DeLage
From 'The Iron Tonic Or a Winter Afternoon in Lonely Valley' written and illustrated by Edward Gorey. First published 1969 darkness
From ‘The Iron Tonic Or a Winter Afternoon in Lonely Valley’ written and illustrated by Edward Gorey. First published 1969 darkness
May 1928 Yachting magazine

Now for some examples from children’s illustration. Stories for children often take place over the course of a 12-hour day. The children wake up early in the morning and go to bed safely tucked in by a parent at night.

Oh, What a Busy Day, Gyo Fujikawa, 1976 sunrise
From We Found A Hat by Jon Klassen. "We are watching the sunset. We are watching it together."
From We Found A Hat by Jon Klassen. “We are watching the sunset. We are watching it together.”
A sunset from Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch. A number of picture books end with the image of a child character dancing in front of/running into/looking at a sunset.
Guess Who’s Coming For Dinner by John Kelly and Cathy Tincknell is one of my all-time favourite picture books and I wish it were easier to source and much more widely known.
Illustration by Adrienne Adams for The Day We Saw The Sun Come Up by Alice E. Goudey
The Scarlet Sunset (c.1830–40) by JMW Turner (English, 1775 – 1851)

SUNSETS IN POSTCARDS

SEE ALSO

A personification of the rising sun, orbs of day and night, and a personification of the setting sun, from the Bristol Psalter. Written in Greek. Image is from the Eastern Mediterranean (Constantinople), 11thC
A personification of the rising sun, orbs of day and night, and a personification of the setting sun, from the Bristol Psalter. Written in Greek. Image is from the Eastern Mediterranean (Constantinople), 11thC

The Colour of Sky, in which yellow skies sometimes mean sunset, sometimes pollution and often also snow.

This one’s a bit different. Instead of an image of sky, we have a metallic surface painted orange by the sun setting off the page.

Vintage Popular Mechanics Magazine August 1937 Thrills of the Navy Test Pilots
Vintage Popular Mechanics Magazine August 1937 Thrills of the Navy Test Pilots
The cover to Boys I Know by Anna Gracia also depicts a sunset without depicting the actual sun. It's all about reflections. A metallic surface helps.
The cover to Boys I Know by Anna Gracia also depicts a sunset without depicting the actual sun. It’s all about reflections. A metallic surface helps.
Lemon girl young adult novella

READ AT MY OTHER BLOG

Header illustration: Norman Mills Price (1877 – 1951)