where is vincent van goghs starry night
A Modern and Contemporary art study set for test-takers, teachers, and lifelong learners alike.
Vincent van Gogh: Emotion, Vision, and A Singular Style
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.
Soth uses Van Gogh’s statement to his brother, that The Starry Night is “an exaggeration from the point of view of arrangement” to further his argument that the painting is “an amalgam of images.”  However, it is by no means certain that Van Gogh was using “arrangement” as a synonym for “composition.” Van Gogh was, in fact, speaking of three paintings, one of which was The Starry Night, when he made this comment: “The olive trees with white cloud and background of mountains, as well as the Moonrise and the Night effect,” as he called it, “these are exaggerations from the point of view of the arrangement, their lines are contorted like those of the ancient woodcuts.” The first two pictures are universally acknowledged to be realistic, non-composite views of their subjects. What the three pictures do have in common is exaggerated color and brushwork of the type that Theo referred to when he criticized Van Gogh for his “search for style [that] takes away the real sentiment of things” in The Starry Night.
Art historian Lauren Soth also finds a symbolist subtext in The Starry Night, saying that the painting is a “traditional religious subject in disguise”  and a “sublimated image of [Van Gogh’s] deepest religious feelings.”  Citing Van Gogh’s avowed admiration for the paintings of Eugène Delacroix, and especially the earlier painter’s use of Prussian blue and citron yellow in paintings of Christ, Soth theorizes that Van Gogh used these colors to represent Christ in The Starry Night.  He criticizes Schapiro’s and Loevgren’s biblical interpretations, dependent as they are on a reading of the crescent moon as incorporating elements of the Sun. He says it is merely a crescent moon, which, he writes, also had symbolic meaning for Van Gogh, representing “consolation.” 
In creating this image of the night sky—dominated by the bright moon at right and Venus at center left—van Gogh heralded modern painting’s new embrace of mood, expression, symbol, and sentiment. Inspired by the view from his window at the Saint-Paul-de-Mausole asylum in Saint-Rémy, in southern France, where the artist spent twelve months in 1889–90 seeking reprieve from his mental illnesses, The Starry Night (made in mid-June) is both an exercise in observation and a clear departure from it. The vision took place at night, yet the painting, among hundreds of artworks van Gogh made that year, was created in several sessions during the day, under entirely different atmospheric conditions. The picturesque village nestled below the hills was based on other views—it could not be seen from his window—and the cypress at left appears much closer than it was. And although certain features of the sky have been reconstructed as observed, the artist altered celestial shapes and added a sense of glow.
Van Gogh assigned an emotional language to night and nature that took them far from their actual appearances. Dominated by vivid blues and yellows applied with gestural verve and immediacy, The Starry Night also demonstrates how inseparable van Gogh’s vision was from the new procedures of painting he had devised, in which color and paint describe a world outside the artwork even as they telegraph their own status as, merely, color and paint.
He first painted a corner of nocturnal sky in Cafe Terrace on the Place du Forum, Arles (Otterlo, Rijksmuseum Kröller-Muller). Next came this view of the Rhône in which he marvellously transcribed the colours he perceived in the dark. Blues prevail: Prussian blue, ultramarine and cobalt. The city gas lights glimmer an intense orange and are reflected in the water. The stars sparkle like gemstones.
From the moment of his arrival in Arles, on 8 February 1888, Van Gogh was constantly preoccupied with the representation of “night effects”. In April 1888, he wrote to his brother Theo: “I need a starry night with cypresses or maybe above a field of ripe wheat.” In June, he confided to the painter Emile Bernard: “But when shall I ever paint the Starry Sky, this painting that keeps haunting me” and, in September, in a letter to his sister, he evoked the same subject: “Often it seems to me night is even more richly coloured than day”. During the same month of September, he finally realised his obsessive project.