During the 1860s and 1870s, many American painters shifted their interest from rendering clear-cut, well-lit scenes of recognizable places to capturing more ambiguous effects, such as the mystery of night. In Point Judith, Rhode Island, the barren, almost lunar landscape contains no figures, allowing moonlight and mystery to feature as the true subjects of the painting. Despite its seemingly generalized character, this work is based on a pencil sketch that identifies the scene’s location as Scarborough Beach, looking toward the tip of Point Judith on the right side of the painting. Although he depicts an actual place, Heade devotes more attention to intangible objects in the landscape. The ominous line of assembling storm clouds and the mysterious, glowing light cast by the moon suggest that perhaps these fluid, evasive elements are more powerful than the solid forms of the landscape.
(Text courtesy of The Cleveland Museum of Art).