Painted a year after his Starry Night Over the Rhone, Van Gogh?s Starry Night (1889) is a reproduction – from memory – of the night view from his sanatorium window In Southern France. The artist?s rendering of star-lit skies was a cathartic process of self-treatment at a time when care given for mental disorders was primitive at best. Van Gogh, always seeking the approval of his beloved brother Theo, immediately dispatched the piece to him for review. His accompanying letter describes how he stared at the morning star until sunrise and started work on the painting in the morning. During this time, his brother ? owner of an art gallery – helped him financially in exchange of paintings.
Like its companion piece, Olive Trees with Yellow Sky and Sun, Starry Night is painted from memory, imbuing the work with the magical and experiential quality that stretches beyond the scope of lived experience. Discarding the Impressionist values, he absorbed during his time in Paris; Starry Night paved the way for the Expressionist era.
Having spent the years 1886-1888 living with his brother in Montmartre, Paris, Van Gogh became aware of the works of Monet and other leading Impressionists, learning of their idiosyncratic reproduction of light and color, their handling of rural and urban themes, and experiencing first-hand the tumultuous lives they led. Personally acquainted with artists such as Paul Gauguin, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Emile Bernard, Camille Pissarro, and John Russell, Van Gogh?s Starry Night was a calculated rejection of the principles of the Impressionists. Instead, this artwork has more in common with the economic brushwork of George Seurat or the psychology interiority of Cezanne. Van Gogh?s painting is now classed within the bracket of Post-Impressionism, with its pent-up energy, pyrotechnic stars, and the utter silence of life in the village. The surrounding gloom appears not to penetrate the frame, instead electrifying the night with the passion and process of creation.
As one of the well-known paintings in the world, Starry Night stands out for its beautiful and fantastical swirls, created with Van Gogh?s iconic brush strokes. He combined shades of light and dark blue with the luminance of the yellow of the stars and moon. By combining these two colors, some areas appear to be green ? also reflecting on the clouds near the horizon. The bottom half of the canvas features a dark and cold city, along with a cypress in the foreground.
Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh
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