Who painted the starry night

The Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh

Vincent van Gogh was born in the Netherlands on March 30, 1853. More than a century and a half later, the Dutch painter is considered to be one of the founders of modern painting, and the Starry Night is one of his most famous paintings.

"Often it seems to me that the night is even more splendidly colored than the day."
Van Gogh, letter to his sister, September 1888

Heavenly depths

Van Gogh created the starry night in June 1889, during one of the most difficult times of his life. Although this landscape painting is full of stars, with soft lines that exude a calm atmosphere, the sky is in turmoil, as if it were reflecting a deeper disorder. A few months earlier, Van Gogh's suicidal thoughts and hallucinations had radically intensified, after which he decided to be admitted to a mental hospital near Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, which he did not leave until a year later.

Vincent Van Gogh

His illness also affected his work. The starry night is a testament to his inner turbulence and the troubled nights during his stay in the clinic. Van Gogh was fascinated by the night sky and was not watching the stars for the first time. In the autumn of 1888 he had painted the starry night over the Rhone - with all its gentle beauty that makes you dream.

4 details of the painting

1. The starry sky

The moon is dazzlingly bright like the sun. But this light is limited to a rather small room. There is no projection of the night moonlight, the painting sky seems to suck it in instead. The sky comes to life in shades of blue, equally impressive and terrifying. This forms a stark contrast to the golden yellow tones of the stars and moon. There are a total of eleven stars that make up this night sky over Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. In the autumn of 1888, Van Gogh wrote in a letter to his sister, “that certain stars are lemon yellow, while others are pink, green, blue, forget-me-not colors. I do not want to go into more detail, but it is obvious that it is by no means sufficient to put white dots on a blue black if you want to paint a starry sky. "

2. The infernal spiral

Amid all the arabesques that make up his night sky, Van Gogh concentrated all the circularity on the center of the canvas. The most important of the spirals can be interpreted as the escalation of his disease. But what was illness and what was unprecedented access to creativity? Van Gogh was inspired by Japanese art, especially prints, in which not only are flat areas of color to be found, but also spirals that are closed in on themselves appear regularly.

3. The unleashed cypress

Dizziness has seized this tree typical of the south of France. Its branches move like waves, outside the quiet of the nocturnal place they seem to function as an echo of the tortured, tortuous environment. These cypress trees, which rise to the sky like flames, are a personal addition to Van Gogh.

4. The little village

Despite the supposedly late hour, light sources can be seen from the houses. Behind the houses is a church whose bell tower has to endure the same battles as other elements of the canvas. The spire seems to be sucked in by the heavenly spirals. Beyond the village of Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, painted by Van Gogh, rise the Alpilles, a mountain range that Van Gogh saw from the window of his clinic room.

Starry night madness?

While all of the elements in the painting suggest that their relentless movement expresses Van Gogh's suffering, we could look at the work differently. With blue as a symbol for the power of the spirit and tranquility, yellow as the color of joy and warmth, couldn't this work also be characteristic of the painter's liberation? Shortly before the painting was created, Van Gogh wrote in a letter to the painter Émile Bernard: “When will I finally make this starry sky that I always have to think of?” Beyond the madness, the mastery and control of the work is evident emanates from him. Everything is calculated down to the smallest detail.

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By Louisa Baumgartel