starry night painting meaning
Art historian Sven Loevgren expands on Schapiro’s approach, again calling The Starry Night a “visionary painting” which “was conceived in a state of great agitation.”  He writes of the “hallucinatory character of the painting and its violently expressive form,” although he takes pains to note that the painting was not executed during one of Van Gogh’s incapacitating breakdowns.  Loevgren compares Van Gogh’s “religiously inclined longing for the beyond” to the poetry of Walt Whitman.  He calls The Starry Night “an infinitely expressive picture which symbolizes the final absorption of the artist by the cosmos” and which “gives a never-to-be-forgotten sensation of standing on the threshold of eternity.”  Loevgren praises Schapiro’s “eloquent interpretation” of the painting as an apocalyptic vision  and advances his own symbolist theory with reference to the eleven stars in one of Joseph’s dreams in the Old Testament book of Genesis.  Loevgren asserts that the pictorial elements of The Starry Night “are visualized in purely symbolic terms” and notes that “the cypress is the tree of death in the Mediterranean countries.” 
F1547 The Enclosed Wheatfield After a Storm, Van Gogh Museum
At the time when Van Gogh painted The Starry Night he was in the asylum in Saint-Rémy.
It was 1889 and he was admitted there after a nervous breakdown, but there he could paint en plein air, and there he painted one of his masterpieces.
In those days Van Gogh wrote to his brother:
In The Starry Night Van Gogh represents the most visionary night in history of art.
Before this painting the night had never been so intense! It’s one of the most famous paintings by Van Gogh, in which darkness is illuminated by violent flashes and by cosmic energy which seems that it can’t find peace.
Starry Night is one of the most recognized pieces of art in the world. It is absolutely everywhere, too. It can be seen on coffee, mugs, t-shirts, towels, magnets, etc. Honestly, it sometimes feels as if the painting’s fame has exceeded that of its creator. It is a magnificent piece of art. That Starry Night resonates with so many people is a testament to how its beauty is timeless and universal.
Vincent van Gogh painted Starry Night in 1889 during his stay at the asylum of Saint-Paul-de-Mausole near Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. Van Gogh lived well in the hospital; he was allowed more freedoms than any of the other patients. If attended, he could leave the hospital grounds; he was allowed to paint, read, and withdraw into his own room. He was even given a studio. While he suffered from the occasional relapse into paranoia and fits – officially he had been diagnosed with epileptic fits – it seemed his mental health was recovering.
Unfortunately, he relapsed. He began to suffer hallucination and have thoughts of suicide as he plunged into depression. Accordingly, there was a tonal shift in his work. He returned to incorporating the darker colors from the beginning of his career and Starry Night is a wonderful example of that shift. Blue dominates the painting, blending hills into the sky. The little village lays at the base in the painting in browns, greys, and blues. Even though each building is clearly outlined in black, the yellow and white of the stars and the moon stand out against the sky, drawing the eyes to the sky. They are the big attention grabber of the painting.
6) In his 2015 book, “Cosmographics,” Michael Benson contends that the inspiration behind the distinctive swirls in the sky of Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” is an 1845 drawing by astronomer William Parsons, Earl of Rosse, of the Whirlpool Galaxy.
There had been hills in Arles too, of course. But they entered his panoramic scenes as idyllic touches. His landscapes included the harvest, passing trains, isolated farmsteads and distant towns; and the hills were simply one more detail. In Arles, van Gogh’s dream had been of the harmony of things and of the spatial dimensions in which that harmony could be felt. None of that remained. The hills rose up steep and abruptly now, menacing, threatening to drag the lonesome soul down into vertiginous depths.
1889. Oil on canvas, 29 x 36 1/4″ (73.7 x 92.1 cm)
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.