how many starry night paintings are there
After experiencing a mental breakdown in the winter of 1888, van Gogh checked himself in to the Saint-Paul-de-Mausole asylum near Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. The view became the basis of his most iconic work. Of his inspiration, van Gogh wrote in one of his many letters to his brother Theo, “This morning I saw the country from my window a long time before sunrise, with nothing but the morning star, which looked very big.”
The dark spires in the foreground are cypress trees, plants most often associated with cemeteries and death. This connection gives a special significance to this van Gogh quote, “Looking at the stars always makes me dream. Why, I ask myself, shouldn’t the shining dots of the sky be as accessible as the black dots on the map of France? Just as we take the train to get to Tarascon or Rouen, we take death to reach a star.”
By 1888, van Gogh had returned to the French countryside, where he would remain until his death. There, close once again to the peasants who had inspired him early on, he concentrated on painting landscapes, portraits (of himself and others), domestic interiors, and still lifes full of personal symbolism.
In 1886, van Gogh moved to Paris, where he encountered the works of the Impressionists and Neo-Impressionists, and the Pointillist compositions of Georges Seurat. Inspired by these artistsвЂ™ harmonious matching of colors, shorter brushstrokes, and liberal use of paint, he brightened his own palette and loosened his brushwork, emphasizing the physical application of paint on the canvas. The style he developed in Paris and carried through to the end of his life became known as Post-Impressionism, a term encompassing works made by artists unified by their interest in expressing their emotional and psychological responses to the world through bold colors and expressive, often symbolic images. In a letter to his sister Willemien, touching upon the mind and temperament of artists, van Gogh once wrote that he was вЂњvery sensitive to color and its particular language, its effects of complementaries, contrasts, harmony.вЂќ 2
Interpretations of this painting are legion. Some claim it is a perfectly realistic account of the position of the stars in June 1889. This, needless to say, is perfectly possible. But the twisting, spiralling lines have nothing to do with the Northern Lights or the Milky Way or some spiral nebula or other. Others say that van Gogh was expressing a personal Gethsemane; they back this up by referring to the discussion of Christ on the Mount of Olives that he was currently engaged in, in his correspondence with Gauguin and Bernard. This too may be so; it is possible that premonitions of sufferings to come are articulated in the picture. But Biblical allegory is present throughout van Gogh’s oeuvre, and he had no need of a special motif, least of all a starry sky, with all its associations of Arles and Utopian visions. Rather, van Gogh was trying to summarize; and his resume juxtaposed natural, scientific, philosophical and personal elements. Starry Night is an attempt to express a state of shock, and the cypresses, olive trees and mountains had acted as van Gogh’s catalyst. More intensely, perhaps, than ever before, van Gogh was interested in the material actuality of his motifs as much as in their symbolic dimensions.
1) Vincent Van Gogh painted “Starry Night” in 1889 from a room in the mental asylum at Saint-Remy where was recovering from mental illness and his ear amputation.
New York: The Museum of Modern Art
Starry Night was painted while Vincent was in the asylum at Saint-Rйmy and his behaviour was very erratic at the time, due to the severity of his attacks. Unlike most of Van Gogh’s works, Starry Night was painted from memory and not outdoors as was Vincent’s preference. This may, in part, explain why the emotional impact of the work is so much more powerful than many of Van Gogh’s other works from the same period.
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.
The oil-on-canvas painting is dominated by a night sky roiling with chromatic blue swirls, a glowing yellow crescent moon, and stars rendered as radiating orbs. One or two cypress trees, often described as flame-like, tower over the foreground to the left, their dark branches curling and swaying to the movement of the sky that they partly obscure. Amid all this animation, a structured village sits in the distance on the lower right of the canvas. Straight controlled lines make up the small cottages and the slender steeple of a church, which rises as a beacon against rolling blue hills. The glowing yellow squares of the houses suggest the welcoming lights of peaceful homes, creating a calm corner amid the painting’s turbulence.