A leading American Tonalist, Ranger was inspired by the paintings of the Barbizon School, a Romantic landscape movement in 19th century France. With its moody dark brown and blue hues, Moonlight romanticizes the American landscape by painting a hazy veil over the rapidly industrializing culture. The painting appears to depict a scene of the harvest moon with a farmer engaged in the rural tradition of plowing by moonlight. Ranger is best-known for founding the Old Lyme Art Colony in 1900, where he and other American artists like Childe Hassam were devoted to establishing a trend of advanced American landscape painting. Despite the progressive optical realism of Tonalist painting, it was largely devoted to picturesque visions of agrarian life that sought to erase traces of modernization. Although the exact date of Moonlight is not known, it is a significant early work by Ranger. It was displayed in 1902 along with his painting, Autumn Woods, in the Old Lyme Art Colony’s first group exhibition.