A Brief Understanding of the Starry Night Paintings.
Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh has risen to the peak of artistic achievements. Although Van Gogh sold only one painting in his life, the aftermath of his work is enormous. Starry Night is one of the most well known images in modern culture as well as being one of the most replicated and sought after prints. From Don McLean’s song ‘Vincent’ (Starry, Starry Night) (Based on the Painting), to the endless number of merchandise products sporting this image, it is nearly impossible to shy away from this amazing painting.
One may begin to ask what features within the painting are responsible for its ever growing popularity. There are actually several main aspects that intrigue those
1. There is the night sky filled with swirling clouds, stars ablaze with their own luminescence, and a bright crescent moon. Although the features are exaggerated, this is a scene we can all relate to, and also one that most individuals feel comfortable and at ease with. This sky keeps the viewer’s eyes moving about the painting, following the curves and creating a visual dot to dot with the stars. This movement keeps the onlooker involved in the painting while the other factors take hold.who view this image, and each factor affects each individual differently. The aspects will be described below:
2. Below the rolling hills of the horizon lies a small town. There is a peaceful essence flowing from the structures. Perhaps the cool dark colors and the fiery windows spark memories of our own warm childhood years filled with imagination of what exists in the night and dark starry skies. The center point of the town is the tall steeple of the church, reigning largely over the smaller buildings. This steeple casts down a sense of stability onto the town, and also creates a sense of size and seclusion.
3. To the left of the painting there is a massive dark structure that develops an even greater sense of size and isolation. This structure is magnificent when compared to the scale of other objects in the painting. The curving lines mirror that of the sky and create the sensation of depth in the painting. This structure also allows the viewer to interpret what it is. From a mountain to a leafy bush, the analysis of this formation is wide and full of variety.
Van Gogh painted Starry Night while in an Asylum at Saint-Remy in 1889.
During Van Gogh’s younger years (1876-1880) he wanted to dedicate his life to evangelization of those in poverty. Many believe that this religious endeavor may be reflected in the eleven stars of the painting. In Genesis 37:9 the following statement is made:
“And he dreamed yet another dream, and told it his brethren, and said, Behold, I have dreamed a dream more; and, behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me.”
Whether or not this religious inspiration is true, it is known that the piece is not the only Starry Sky painting that Van Gogh ever created. Gogh was quite proud of a piece he had painted earlier in Arles in 1888 that depicted stars reflecting in the Rhone River.
Like Starry Sky this previous piece shares many of the qualities that have made Starry Sky such a popular painting. For instance:
- The stars in the night sky are surrounded with their own orb of light.
- The Reflection of artificial light (new to the time period) from Arles in the river makes the one’s eyes move around the painting; thus keeping the viewer visually involved.
- There are structures in the distant lit up in a warm glow of light.
Starry Night over the Rhone contains one final aspect that is not featured in the Starry Night piece; humans. In the bottom right corner of the painting there is a couple walking along the river. This gives the painting a down to earth feel with a natural quality. Although this painting is not nearly as popular as the seconded Starry Night piece, it still creates a pleasurable and life like environment to look at. It is also resides as a very sought after piece when it is placed with Starry Night and the following painting to create a montage of Van Gogh’s Starry Night works.
Cafe Terrace At Night was also painted in Arles in 1888. The similarities between this piece the previous two are vaguely similar. This piece offers a new type of perspective on the star filled sky.
- The Stars are barely consumed in their own light.
- The bright yellow wall draws in ones attention rather then assisting to move one’s eyes around the painting.
- There is a sense of balance attributed to the dark cityscape silhouette to the right of the painting (Contrasting the bright yellow wall).
Nevertheless these three paintings have astounded millions of people and remain three of the best works ever to flow from Van Gogh’s paint brush. Each Day hundreds of people crowd around the original paintings located in various art museums to offer their own personal interpretation as to the meaning of the pieces. Although we may never know how Vincent himself truly felt about these paintings, mankind still embraces their greatness.