The Genius Of Starry Night

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Vincent van Gogh. The Starry Night
Vincent van Gogh. The Starry Night. Saint Rémy, June 1889. Museum of Modern Art

One of the most famous paintings of all times is The Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh. He was a self-taught Dutch Post-Impressionist painter who produced more than 2000 fine works of art. The movie Loving Vincent showcases the great painter as a caricature of a misunderstood and emotionally unstable person of the creative field. When in reality many don’t see the man who was the epitome of a diligent and occult observer of nature while being a deeply spiritual person. 

Vincent was deeply moved by the beauty of nature and it is nature that impressed him enough to take up brushes and paints. In a letter to his brother Theo Vincent expressed his love of nature by saying, “Always continue walking a lot and loving nature, for that’s the real way to learn to understand art better and better.” 

In a career that stretched for a decade Vincent painted numerous landscapes and portraits of Dutch peasants that worked in that rural landscape. His paintings often consisted of dark brooding colour schemes. But then he moved from the countryside to the bustling city of Paris. Here he encountered many Impressionists and Neo-Impressionist that greatly inspired him. By seeing their works Vincent lightened his colour palette and started using light brushwork on his canvas. 

But soon his mental health took a toll on him and he mutilated his own ear. This made him retrieve back to the countryside and into the Saint-Paul asylum. It is here that van Gogh remained  till his death in 1890. In the asylum as a part of his treatment, he was advised to pick the paints again. So he produced a number of landscapes, self-portraits and portraits of his fellow asylum residents while being in the asylum.

While staying there he religiously painted his pain away while corresponding with his brother Theo regularly. Once he said to Theo, “… a starry night with cypresses, or perhaps above all a field of ripe corn; there are some wonderful nights here.” 

And on other occasions, “This morning I saw the countryside from my window a long time before sunrise, with nothing but the morning star, which looked very big.” And so The Starry Night was created. 

The painting can be interpreted in many ways. Van Gogh himself has created the painting by mixing some fragments of reality that surrounded him while adding imaginary elements to it. The painting has two bright spots ornating the pristine night sky. The biggest circle on the left represents the Moon while the smaller of the two is his morning star, the Venus. 

The entire canvas is then filled with concentrating swirls that stretch the expanse of the night. The gripping brushwork used by van Gogh could mean the turbulence of that night. Or could represent the internal turmoil he faced with his own mental health. 

Whatever the reason maybe that urged Vincent to draw, the painting is said to be driven by pure emotions. Memory and quick brush strokes aided Vincent in the process. But as Vincent’s own words had described it, “The sight of the stars always makes me dream.”

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