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Starry Night

The Starry Night, Vincent Van Gogh

‘’The Starry Night’’ was an artwork  created in June 1889 by Vincent Van Gogh, the most famous painter of all time. Dutch artist Vincent Van Gogh completed his famous work which has a very important place for art history,  a year before he died. The starry night is unquestionably the most favorite artwork even today. Van gogh is a painter who recognized by everyone that is sensible or insensible  to art. This situation leads to increase the interest and curiosity about The Starry Night. In order to understand the impact of the starry night artwork, it is necessary to understand  Van Gogh that has always aroused the curiosity in people with his tragic life and the context of the work.

Van Gogh’s Tragic Life

Vincent van Gogh, one of the most well-known post-impressionist artists, for whom color was the chief symbol of expression, was born in Groot-Zundert, Holland on March 30, 1853. [1] The son of a village priest, grew up in a modest family and had a brother Theo, who would always support him. Notwithstanding Van Gogh was dealing with personal problems since his childhood. Vincent  dropped out his education down because of his dead slow grip. Vincent was highly emotional, lacked self-confidence and struggled with his identity and with direction. [2] He had disagreements with people and were rejected by women. He didn’t know what he wanted to do and he was constantly changing jobs. He was the assistant priest, the seller of books, the pastor in the mines. Actually, He wanted to become a priest at first. He believed that the real salvation in God.  He wanted to be the salvation of the hungry and the wretched people, but not happen as he wished. When he became unemployed, he became hungry and miserable and during this process he lost his faith in God. Van Gogh was dismissed because of his overzealousness even. Therefore he could not live anywhere and was constantly experiencing psychological crises.

Indeed, Van Gogh didn’t start painting until he was 27 years old, and he never received any formal training. [3]  When his father died, Vincent went to Paris in 1886, Theo took along Vincent to his own home. Thanks to Theo Vincent began to interest painting and art. Theo was aware of his painting talent and encouraged Van Gogh to paint. He enrolled in the workshop of the painter Cormon in Paris. Paris was the center of art in those times. Inspired by artists harmonious matching of colors, shorter brushstrokes, and liberal use of paint, he brightened his own palette and loosened his brushwork, emphasizing the physical application of paint on the canvas. [4] On the road to impressionism, Van Gogh was enchanted by colors over time. He loved the colors so much that he even started to eat. His paintings could not be understood in his own time but he would be one of the most important architects of the road to contemporary art.

Vincent van Gogh

Vincent van Gogh (1853 – 1890)Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear, 1889 Oil on canvas, 60.5 x 50 cm  The Courtauld Gallery, London

Van Gogh had several close relationships with other artists, including fellow painter Paul Gaugin. [5] Van Gogh and Gaugin was close friends at the beginning however over the time they never became get along with each other. One evening Vincent and Gouguin went into a violent debate. And Vincent  tried to cut Gauguin’s throat with a razor. The famous ear cutting event occurred after this incident. Van Gogh cut off his own ear when he couldn’t controll  his anger.  After this incident, an increasingly deteriorating process of depression has begun for Vincent Van Gogh. In April 1889 he voluntarily admitted himself to the Saint-Paul-de-Mausole psychiatric hospital in Saint-Rémy, where he spent a year. It was from his window here that he created some of his most well-known paintings, including The Starry Night. [6]

Despite only working for 10 years – from the age of 27 up until his early demise at 37 – van Gogh was incredibly prolific. He produced more than 900 paintings and many more drawings and sketches, which works out at nearly a new artworks every 36 hours. [7] Although he was so productive, he was able to sell only one painting at that time and Van Gogh  didn’t like the many works he did.  In addition to all these financial distress, epilepsy, and mental depression quickly led to suicide, and on July 27, 1890, he committed suicide by shooting on his belly.

37 years of life resulting in suicide, even today his works are in the limelight, still could not unlock the mystery of techniques, and with his most famous work the starry night is a subject of scientific research; Van Gogh is a great genius painter who is  still inspirer today.

A Masterpiece, The Starry Night

The Starry Night an artwork was completed by Vincent van Gogh in 1889, Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, France. It is a landscape painting with traces of post-impressionism with oil painting technique on canvas. The original version of the work, 73.7 x 92.1 cm, is currently exhibited at the  Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Van Gogh drew The Starry Night in a mental hospital where he was treated for mental illnesses after the ear-cutting incident. The Starry Night is defined as a fictional interpretation of the city of Saint-Remy-de-Provence, seen from his room at the mental hospital where Van Gogh stayed. This sanatorium had been inspired for a starry night to Van Gogh. “This morning I saw the countryside from my window a long time before sunrise, with nothing but the morning star, which looked very big,” wrote Van Gogh to his brother Theo. [8] Van Gogh who watched the sky for hours at night, drew the painting with images in his mind during the day, only this detail shows that how great a genius he is. At the end of long research, it was found that the painting showed the sky on May 25, 1889, 04: 40. Because the Moon is yet the first crescent form and the planet Venus is visualized on the horizon. It is understood that the stars and planets in the painting are depicted at sunrise. [9]

Vincent Van Gogh The Starry Night

Gogh, Vincent van: The Starry Night, oil on canvas by Vincent van Gogh, 1889; in the Museum of Modern Art, New York City.

When we look at the an artwork, The square of the village is depicted in the darkness of the night, under the rotating sky. The first glance picture is positioned quite close to the sky from the high a fairly high angle. Looking at the picture gives the impression of watching the sky from the top floor of a building. This impressive angle was also consciously created by Van Gogh in this way the sky covers the vast majority of the picture. Both the sky’s influence has increased and the landscape of the village has a more modest appearance. In fact, the village in the artwork is not actually in France, the landscape in his own country Holland. It is also seen that the barred  window of the painter’s mental hospital were not included in the picture. It is possible to say that the desire for freedom within Van Gogh was reflected on the canvas. In spite of all the elements in motion, the serenity of the village gives viewers peace of mind. In this respect, the houses in the village and the yellow lights in the houses symbolize a happy family atmosphere for Van Gogh. In contrast to the turbulence effect of the stars, the moon and the cypress tree, the houses are composed of straight and controlled lines. Besides, the church inside the village also attracts to attention. The presence of the church reflects the conservatism of Van Gogh, who was once a priest and the church bell also represents the unity of the village. One of the most remarkable elements in the picture is the bright crescent moon and eleven stars. The presence of stars is quite attractive, it looks like a waggoner. Actually Van Gogh’s window didn’t show the stars this means that van Gogh added these stars later and  it means something to him. “But the sight of the stars always makes me dream,” van Gogh once wrote. “Why, I say to myself, should the spots of light in the firmament be less accessible to us than the black spots on the map of France? Just as we take the train to go to Tarascon or Rouen, we take death to go to a star.’’ [10] van Gogh’s interest has increased to the stars and the sky in the last years of his life, we can say that the sky in the artwork is reflected an integration of chaos and search for peace. Another remarkable symbol is the cypress tree. One or two cypress trees, often described as flame-like, tower over the foreground to the left, their dark branches curling and swaying to the movement of the sky that they partly obscure. [11]  The cypress tree starts from the ground and extends to the sky, this tree is usually found in cemeteries and evokes death. Therefore, the cypress tree can actually be interpreted as a bridge between life and heaven, between life and death. When we think of Van Gogh’s difficult life, mental crises, desperation and unbalanced behavior, the contradictions between life and death can be understood. Despite the difficult living conditions Van gogh discovered turbulence that has an important place in scientific work in this masterpiece. Van Gogh was able to combine and portray the mysteries of motion and light in his mind, one of the most difficult issues to be understood by nature. Thus Vincent Van Gogh was accepted a great genius and  The Starry Night was accepted The Mona Lisa of our times. The Starry Night was produced at a time when non-traditional ways of thinking came into play at a non-traditional time. Van Gogh´s swirling sky directs the viewer´s eye around the painting, with spacing between the stars and the curving contours creating a dot-to-dot effect. Thus Starry Night´s composition was distinct from the Impressionist technique of the 19th century. [12]

Brush strokes Vincent van Gogh

Brush strokes, Vincent van Gogh, detail of the impasto, The Starry Night, 1889, oil on canvas, 73.7 x 92.1 cm. (The Museum of Modern Art, New York)

The Starry Night, which can be evaluated in terms of line, shape, light and value, texture, color, area, pattern, time and movement, contains many art elements. When we look at  the moon and the stars colors of yellow, orange and white shades of bright light is remarkable. In these tint colors ease upp the weight of the blue and navy blue colors of the sky and brightened the picture. At the same time, these bright natural lights show the magnificence of nature. Vertical lines were formed with cypress tree and a church bell to lighten the horizontal air of the picture. In Starry Night contoured forms are a means of expression and they are used to convey emotion. [13] The contrasting tones between vivid and dark, also turbulance flow reflected van Gogh’s emotions at that time. The white and yellow colors used for the stars and the moon draw attention to the effect of the sky. The light in the picture is provided by the stars and the moon in the shape of a crescent. thus the natural light of the sky has a fascinating effect that illuminates the entire the artwork. When we look at the style and technique in the work, it is possible to say that it is an important work for post-impressionism. In the ordinary night scene, many colors are mixed, creating silhouettes and shadows. but unlike most artists, van gogh went beyond all traditions and developed his own unique techniques. It has brought a new breath to art impressionism by using the paints directly from the tubes without mixing them on the pallet.  In this way, it has a very natural effect with thick, wide and rough brush strokes. Van Gogh, who never mixed the colors and shades in the painting, achieved the unique turbulence effect only with the harmony of vibrant colors and unique brush strokes. This enormous picture, which offers an insight into our chaos and serenity, gives us the opportunity to watch the night’s magnificent sky.



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Sanatın Gücü: Vincent van Gogh, Access: 18.03.2019

The Museum of Modern Art; Art and Artists, Access: 18.03.2019

The Starry Night Access: 21.03.2019

The Starry Night Critical Reception Access: 21.03.2019

The Truth Behind The Myths Surrounding Dutch Painter Vincent Van Gogh, Access: 18.03.2019

Vincent van Gogh: Emotion, Vision, and A Singular Style, Access: 19.03.2019

Vincent van Gogh Paintings, Drawings, Quotes, and Biography, Access: 19.03.2019

Vincent van Gogh Biography, Access: 19.03.2019

10 Things You Might Not Know About Vincent van Gogh, Access: 19.03.2019


[1]  Vincent van Gogh Biography, Access: 19.03.2019

[2]  op.cit. (a.g.e)

[3]  10 Things You Might Not Know About Vincent van Gogh, Access: 19.03.2019

[4]  Vincent van Gogh: Emotion, Vision, and A Singular Style, Access: 19.03.2019

[5]  10 Things You Might Not Know About Vincent van Gogh, Access: 19.03.2019

[6] op.cit.

[7] op.cit.

[8]  Vincent van Gogh: Emotion, Vision, and A Singular Style, Access: 19.03.2019

[9]  Gizem Dolu Hikayesiyle Yıldızlı Gece Resmi,  Access: 21.03.2019

[10]  Vincent van Gogh: Emotion, Vision, and A Singular Style, Access: 19.03.2019

[11]   The Starry Night Access: 21.03.2019

[12]  The Starry Night Critical Reception, Access: 21.03.2019

[13]  op. Cit.