starry night aesthetic
The sky of The Starry Night is the most dream-like element to the composition. There, van Gogh seems to convey turbulent emotion, particularly in the swirls that move across the canvas. In the same way, the hamlet, including the prominent church spire (which is thought to be inspired by the architecture of his home in the Netherlands) is also entirely imagined.
With a well-known and universally adored body of work, Vincent van Gogh is arguably one of the most iconic artists of all time. As a pioneering Post-Impressionist figure, Van Gogh paved the way for other avant-garde artists and played a key role in the evolution of modern art.
Starry Night has risen to the peak of artistic achievements. Although Van Gogh sold only one painting in his whole life, “Starry Night” is an icon of modern art, the Mona Lisa for our time. As Leonardo da Vinci evoked a Renaissance ideal of serenity and self-control, Van Gogh defined how we see our own age – wracked with solitude and uncertainty. Since 1941 Starry Night has been in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
9) Pathologist Paul Wolf postulated in 2001 that the artist’s fondness for yellow in paintings like “Starry Night” resulted from taking too much digitalis, a treatment in his day for epilepsy.
The first interpretation creates a religious presence to the painting. Van Gogh was religious with a religious uncle who was a theologian. Starry night conveys strong feelings of hope through the bright lights of the stars shining down over the dark landscape and night. In 1888, Van Gogh wrote a personal letter which described; “a great starlit vault of heaven… one can only call God”. Starry night depicts moon, stars and a sky surrounded by large halos of light with a church steeple standing out above a smaller, less detailed buildings in the town below. This has been related to Genesis 37:9; “Then he dreamed still another dream and told it to his brothers, saying, “Look, I have dreamed another dream. And this time, the sun, the moon and the eleven stars bowed down to me”. Gogh painted exactly eleven stars in Starry Night, perhaps directly referencing the biblical verse accounting Joseph, a ‘dreamer’ and an outcast in the company of his eleven older brothers. Van Gogh may have related to Joseph as he was an outcast in the art world at the time. In the bible, Joseph was thrown into a pit, sold into slavery and suffered many years of imprisonment, like Gogh did in the last years of his life in the Arles Asylum. Also, no matter what Joseph never received acceptance or respect from his brothers, like how the world-renowned artist never got recognition from art critics of his day.
The second interpretation focuses on the cypress tree, a prominent element of Starry Night. Van Gogh may have identified himself with the looming cypress tree in the foreground of the infamous painting. It is a plant that reoccurs in several of his paintings, such as the painting pictured below:
Vincent van Gogh
There are various interpretations of Starry Night and one is that this canvas depicts hope. It seems that van Gogh was showing that even with a dark night such as this it is still possible to see light in the windows of the houses. Furthermore, with shining stars filling the sky, there is always light to guide you. It seems that van Gogh was finally being cured of his illness and had essentially found his heaven. He also knew that in death he would be at peace and further portrays this by using bold colors in the Starry Night painting.
“These last three months do seem so strange to me. Sometimes moods of indescribable mental anguish, sometimes moments when the veil of time and the fatality of circumstances seemed to be torn apart for an instant.” —Vincent van Gogh – an excerpt from a letter he penned to his brother, Theo, on March 29, 1889.
After being found unconscious by police the next morning, he was taken to a local hospital in Arles where he was treated. It was then that Van Gogh was diagnosed as experiencing “acute mania with generalised delirium”. From there, the downward spiral began and eventually, Van Gogh checked himself into an asylum in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, the birthplace of Nostradamus. His room faced the east and it is said that he was so inspired by the view, he churned out numerous paintings and drawings of it. This is one of those paintings.