The Norwegian painter Peder Balke focused on the sublime landscapes of the North. Like his compatriot Johan Christian Dahl before him, he drew inspiration from the unspoiled and rugged nature of Norway on trips that took him as far the North Cape. His romantic landscape paintings are suffused with the light of the rising moon, the midnight sun or the aurora borealis.
In Moonlit Beach a stretch of coastline is dramatically illuminated by the low celestial body. A group of people, whose dark silhouettes coalesce with the shoreline and a sailboat anchoring in front of them, watch the distant light from the beach. Informed by the romantic aesthetic, the atmospheric painting was executed in what was, for the mid-nineteenth century, an experimental painting technique. Balke uses enamel-like techniques, smudging and spreading the paint in different ways. These special effects of the paint substance serve to render the magical lighting atmosphere. At the same time, Balke simplifies and abstracts what is depicted. It was not until the twentieth century that he was recognised as an early pioneer of modernism. Today, Balke is regarded as an early precursor of modern painting along with William Turner.