And the Moon Became as Blood

Howard Finster, American, 1916-2001
And the Moon Became as Blood, 1976
Enamel on fiberboard
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Herbert Waide Hemphill Jr.

This painting demonstrates that solar and lunar eclipses can be transformed into religious symbols. The Reverend Howard Finster was a Baptist minister and self-taught painter who introduced “outsider art” to millions through his paintings and constructions. And the Moon Became as Blood  is one of his many paintings on biblical themes. Rather than portraying eclipses as they are seen, he has taken literally Revelation 6:12 (“the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood”), which includes allegorical descriptions of solar and lunar eclipses (when the moon darkens and turns reddish). Finster depicted both of these allegories in the same sky (which is artistically effective but an astronomical impossibility), heralding the Final Judgment.

Rolf Sinclair, adjunct researcher at the Centro de Estudios Científicos, Valdivia, Chile, and a visiting senior research scholar at the University of Maryland, College Park.