The Starry Night

Artist: Vincent Van Gogh (1853–1890)

Dimensions: 73.7 cm × 92.1 cm

Location: Currently displayed in Museum of Modern Arts, New York

Subject: The view from the asylum window of the artist.

Period: Post-Impressionist

Medium: Oil on Canvas

Very few times in the history of art, a painting or a piece of art surpasses the fame of the artists themselves. This enigmatic painting by the Post-Impressionist Maestro Vincent Van Gogh has had that impact on the art lovers. Ironically enough, In a letter to his brother Theo, Van Gogh had expressed his feelings calling this painting to be a failure, before this particular piece he had painted 21 preceeding versions of it.On 23rd December 1988, Van Gogh had a mental breakdown and he self mutilated himself by cutting off his left ear. As a result of that act, he voluntarily took admission to the Saint-Paul-De-Mausole Lunatic Asylum, France in May 1989. During his stay at the asylum he painted some of his most renowned pieces of art, The Starry Night being one of them.

It is said that the painting was an inspiration and impression, from the view through his Asylum window. Van Gogh never drew the iron bars of the window in the painting, giving it a more mystical feel than realistic. The moon dominates the right side of the painting with a star filled night sky with the morning star, Venus on the left side of the painting. Three quarters of the painting is of the sky.There are deep and powerful swirling patterns, created through short brush stoke, that seem to glide across the surface in wave like formations, some observe the patterns to be tumultuous in nature. The morning star is encircled by concentric glowing white and yellow light. There’s an enriching and luminous quality given to the night sky, through the choice of colours. Underneath the night sky is a village surrounding a church, with undulating blue black mountains in the background. A tree, which is identified as a cypress tree dominates the foreground, shaped like flames going upwards, almost forming a visual link of the ground and the sky. Symbolically, the cypress tree is considered as a connection between life on earth and death as represented in the sky, referring to it as a pathway to heaven. There is an organized chaos in the sky which complements the tranquility in the hamlet drawn on the ground. In later studies, scholars found the astronomical observations of Van Gogh to be pretty accurate for that time of the year, as depicted in the painting.

As with any famous piece of art, this painting has also been commercialized to such an extent, that to an art lover it might feel it takes away the very essence of the artist’s mental and emotional state while he created this, which was extremely turbulent, private and internalized.It is currently displayed at the Museum of Modern Arts in New York and art lovers across the world visit the gallery to witness the sheer brilliance and creativity of the artist, who was tragically embraced by fame only posthumously.

Words: Rhiti Chatterjee Bose

Disclaimer: Please note that the information used here has been researched from the internet and the writer is aware that there is more information which has been left out due to the restrictions regarding the length of the article.

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