Understanding Vincent Van Gogh’s ‘The Starry Night’

Vincent Van Gogh’s ‘The Starry Night’
Source:  https://www.moma.org/collection/works/79802
 
Dwelling at The Museum of Modern Art, Vincent Van Gogh’s ‘The Starry Night’ is an extraordinary piece owing to the number of interpretations it can evoke.

Due to this reason, it continues to influence and inspire artists around the world. Finished in 1889, the painting is now one of the most famous works known and thus holds a special mention. Starry Nights are a part of a lot of Gogh’s creations; however, this particular work seems to have taken his inspiration to the pinnacle.

Gogh is considered a Post Impressionist for he valued his own style and techniques that set him apart. Although he had closely followed the works of impressionists, he chose to carve his own path. He used the methodologies through which he could best manifest and accentuate his imagination. What led to the creation of ‘The Starry Night’ was a nighttime scene observed by Gogh from his window in the retreat in southern France, where he took refuge in his later years. He had even described this observation in a letter addressed to his brother Theo.

At an initial glance, it appears that Gogh has presented a microcosm of the infinite sky, bringing some things to the fore and presenting only a silhouette of the others. A large section of the work is taken up by the Cypress tree that reaches high up to the starry sky. It perhaps represents the significance bestowed on nature by Gogh as the background of the sky enhances the overall effect of the cypress tree.

Some interpretations of this composition are based on the mental stance of Gogh at the time; the circular and flowy strokes are read as the inner tribulations of the artist. There is a stark contrast between the dynamic sky and the stationary life constituted by a small village in the picture.

Apart from the larger objects, there are numerous minute details that make ‘The Starry Night’ what it is today. Although we know that we’re seeing the night sky, the middle section appears like a caricature of tidal waves. In fact, this detail is said to have inspired another popular painting i.e. Hokusai’s ‘The Great Wave’. The top right corner is adorned by the crescent moon and right next to the cypress tree lies Venus. In total, Gogh has presented twelve celestial bodies in the picture.

Despite the fame won by ‘The Starry Night’ today, the virtuoso did not even acknowledge himself back then. In fact, he did not even consider this work as his best creation. Perchance it didn’t conform to his parameters of perfection back then and this is where his greatness lied. Today, the painting is even more popular than the creator.

Written By: Ashmita Khandelwal

Editor and Team Lead: Ashutosh Sharma

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Sources for the article:

https://www.moma.org/learn/moma_learning/vincent-van-gogh-the-starry-night-1889/

https://mymodernmet.com/starry-night-van-gogh/

About The Author(s)

Chemistry major with self-proclaimed good taste in Books and Music.

Ashmita Khandelwal
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