how is starry night aesthetic
On top of his revolutionary oeuvre, Vincent van Gogh is known for his profound struggles with mental illness. Born in 1853, the artist was only 37 years old when he died of a possibly self-inflicted gunshot wound while being voluntarily treated at a mental health facility in the South of France.
The ethereal painting’s balanced composition is composed of celestial swirls, stylized stars, a radiating moon, an idyllic village, and a sky-high cypress tree. While the depiction is based on his real-life view of the village, van Gogh took some liberties when painting it. A notable fact, as the Dutch artist was known for faithfully painting what he saw before him.
Unlike many other artists who painted realistic landscapes and portraits, Van Gogh used exaggerated and expressive brushstrokes to visualize his emotions and reveal personal impressions of the subject being painted. In Starry Night, the emotions of isolation and insanity underlie which relates to how he was a struggling artist with unappreciated artwork. The night sky of Starry Night is brimming with whirling clouds, shining stars and a bright moon. The swirling brushstrokes guide the viewer’s eye around the painting with spacing between the stars creating a dot-to-dot effect. The village is peaceful in comparison to the dramatic night sky. The church steeple dominates the village and symbolizes unity in the town and gives and impression of isolation.
In 1888, a year before Starry Night was painted, Van Gogh had an argument with a friend and French artist, Paul Gauguin. The dutch painter had suffered from mental illness throughout his life and was admitted to Arles mental asylum soon after the argument as he cut off his ear. Many believe Starry Night was painted from the view Gogh had from his window in Arles asylum.
Widely hailed as Van Gogh’s magnum opus, the painting depicts the view outside his sanatorium room window at night, although it was painted from memory during the day.
An end-of-the-world cataclysm invades Van Gogh’s Starry Night, one of apocalypse filled with melting aerolites and comets adrift. One has the impression that the artist has expelled his inner conflict onto a canvas. Everything here is brewed in a huge cosmic fusion. The sole exception is the village in the foreground with its architectural elements. Several months after painting Starry Night, Van Gogh wrote: “Why, I say to myself, should the spots of light in the firmament be less accessible to us than the black spots on the map of France. Just as we take the train to go to Tarascon or Rouen, we take death to go to a star.”
At the asylum, van Gogh observed the night sky from his barred bedroom window and wrote a letter to Theo describing a magnificent view of the morning star very early one morning in the summer of 1889. Because he was not allowed to paint in his bedroom, he painted the scene from memory or possibly drawings and used his imagination for the small village that did not actually exist. Employing the expressive style he had developed during his stay in Paris in 1886–88, he applied the paint directly from the tube onto the canvas, creating thick impasto and intense hues. Ambivalent about working from his imagination, van Gogh eventually regarded the finished Starry Night as a failure, and Theo frankly indicated that the painting favoured style over substance.
Although van Gogh’s subjects were restricted, his style was not. He experimented with the depiction of various weather conditions and changing light, often painting the wheat fields nearby under a bright summer sun or dark storm clouds. Van Gogh was also particularly preoccupied by the challenges of painting a night landscape and wrote about it not only to his brother, Theo, but to a fellow painter, Émile Bernard, and to his sister, Willemien. In a letter addressed to the latter, he alleged that night was more colourful than day and that stars were more than simple white dots on black, instead appearing yellow, pink, or green. By the time van Gogh arrived at Saint-Rémy, he had already painted a few night scenes, including Starry Night (Rhône) (1888). In that work, stars appear in bursts of yellow against a blue-black sky and compete with both the glowing gas lamps below and their reflection in the Rhône River.
Van Gogh paints the rich colors of the night and this corresponds with the true character of this Starry Night, whereby colors are used to suggest emotion.
In a letter to his brother, Theo, van Gogh comments: “I should not be surprised if you liked the Starry Night and the Ploughed Fields, there is a greater quiet about them than in the other canvases. “ Later in the letter he makes reference to Leo Tolstoys book My Religion and its lack of belief in resurrection. Such fleeting mentions of religion echoed van Goghs feelings towards the subject at this time; he could neither forget it nor totally accept it. Despite this, his use of the word ‘quiet’ and reference to Tolstoys book indicates that the night sky made him feel calm and brought to mind eternity.