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Beautiful sunset near the town of Ovid (and close to the Nebraska border) in Sedgwick County, Colorado. Photo by Carol M. Highsmith, 2014 Nov. 7.

Stunning Sunsets

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With the recent end of Daylight Saving Time, sunsets have become a highlight of my evening commute home from work. They are a lovely tradeoff for the loss of some daylight as we move ever closer to winter. As often happens, when I see something visually interesting or beautiful, I get curious and search in our collections to see what we have on the subject. And I was rewarded with some truly spectacular sights when I searched for sunsets. So, join me in a tour through sunsets in different time periods and countries that are expressed using different media such as photography and painting.

Our collection of works by American artist Joseph Pennell includes hundreds of sunset views, including these two drawings of Venice, Italy and of New York City.

The gold moon. Drawing by Joseph Pennell, between 1901 and 1908.


Reflective river. Drawing by Joseph Pennell, between 1921 and 1926.

Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii created his negatives by using a camera that exposed one oblong glass plate three times in rapid succession through three different color filters: blue, green, and red. For formal presentations, he printed positive glass slides of these negatives and projected them through a triple lens magic lantern, and, with the use of color filters, superimposed the three exposures to form a full color image on a screen. Here, the full color image is a digital rendering mimicking the effect created by the magic lantern and color filters.

Zakat na mori︠e︡ (Sunset at the sea). Photo by Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii, between 1905 and 1915. Digital color rendering and retouching by Walt Frankhauser, WalterStudio, 2005-2020.

Artist Elizabeth Shippen Green created this painting to illustrate a story in Harper’s Magazine in May 1911, with vivid sunset colors surrounding the horseback figures in the foreground.

Once more the herald set the trumpet to his lips and blew. Oil and watercolor painting by Elizabeth Shippen Green, circa 1911.

This 1901 photochrom is a photomechanical print that combines photography and lithography in one image, giving color to this sunset over the New York harbor.

Sunset from the Battery, New York. Photochrom by Detroit Publishing Company, c1901.

Photographer Toni Frissell used the sunset as a contrasting backdrop to a fashion shoot in this 1946 photo.

Two women in evening gowns posed in front of water at sunset. Photo by Toni Frissell, 1946 Nov.

Contemporary photographer Carol M. Highsmith captured these two stunning sunsets. A massive saguaro cactus is silhouetted in the Arizona desert during a vibrant sunset. Below that, a gentle sunset is reflected in the surface of a serene New Hampshire lake.

Sunset silhouettes a saguaro cactus in the Sonoran Desert, near Marana, north of Tucson, Arizona. Photo by Carol M. Highsmith, 2019 Feb. 25.
Sunset over Chocorua Lake in Tamworth, New Hampshire. Photo by Carol M. Highsmith, 2017 Sept. 22.


Learn More:

  • Bask in more vivid sunsets from the camera of contemporary photographer Carol M. Highsmith.
  • Read more about Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii’s color photography method while documenting the Russan Empire between 1905 and 1915, as well as a Picture This interview with Walt Frankhauser about his modern digital renderings.
  • The sun also rises! Enjoy depictions of sunrises from throughout the collections of the Prints & Photographs Division.

Comments (4)

  1. Looking for some peace & solace during this time of upheaval & heartbreak, know that this post has greatly helped. Shared with friends & family, we are all grateful.

  2. Kristi, I really enjoyed your blog, especially since sunsets are among my favorite subjects to photograph. I also appreciate
    The PG attribution and discussion. Thanks.

  3. Lovely photograph but caption is incorrect. The lake is in Tamworth, NH.

    • Hello, and thank you for the corrected location! We will update the catalog descripton.

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