Charles E. Burchfield (1893-1967), Afterglow, July 8, 1916; watercolor with graphite on paper, 19 3/8 x 14 inches; Burchfield Penney Art Center, Gift of Tony Sisti, 1979
In Afterglow the sky is clearly red, as the sun sets to the right of the viewer. The sky is red because the sun’s rays are low on the horizon and are passing through the thickest part of the atmosphere. The shorter wavelengths, such as violet and blue, have been dispersed and only the longer red wavelengths remain to be scattered within the clouds. The presence of the moon, First Quarter in this case, and darkened colors of the house and vegetation support a southwesterly view during evening twilight. The moon rose (east) around local noon and will set (west) at local midnight, thus the moon in the water color is approximately halfway through its transit. When the sun is low on the horizon, the sky is often brighter than that of the earth’s surface. The sun’s rays continue to shine high into the sky even as the sun sets below the horizon.