Analysis of Vincent Van Gogh's Starry Night

Starry Night


van Gogh, Vincent
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Analysis of Van Gogh's Starry Night: Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh is oil on canvas, 73 x 92 cm. Exposed in the Modern Art Museum of New York. Painted in Saint Rémy in June 1889. Starry Night by Van Gogh was painted at the height of his production and his passion for life. It's a nocturnal picture, painted while he was staying at the psychiatric hospital of Saint Remy-of-Provence. The real drama of this painting is that the artist is not content to commune with nature to understand and paint his subject, but battles to enter into the very essence of the natural world so that his brushes can tell us the exquisitely haunting story from within.

Starry Night represents all the drama of a man anxious of communication and integration into nature. The previous year, in Arles, Vincent had a terrible argument with his best friend, Gaugin. As an act of desperation he cut off his right ear. After this horrible time in his life, the depression came back and he was sent to a psychiatric hospital at the request of his neighbours in Arles. It was at that time, that he painted other nocturnal pictures like The Night Café, Starry Night over the Rhone and many others.

To paint at night, he hung candles around the brim of his hat, and around the picture canvas, so that he can see what he is painting. He is the first artist to directly paint these nocturnal scenes at night. This need to connect with nature is something he inherited from the impressionists in Paris. The important point here is his passion for the dark night. In times when street lighting was at a minimum (just gas light) and most of the light would come from the houses in the village, the night was really dark.

The question is obvious - what was going on inside the tormented soul of the artist to make him want to escape into the endless black night? Starry Night reflects the anguish of the artist. The energetic strokes, the vibrant colours of the stars against the dark blues and blacks of the night reflect the need of a desperate man for hope in the middle of the "black night". Starry Night is a fight between a man and his anxiety. A scream for hope, light and love.

The structure and composition of Starry Night:

The structure and composition of Starry Night: Van Gogh followed the stricter principal of structure and composition in Starry Night. The order of the internal elements of the painting and the distribution is perfect. The smaller part of the picture's elements are points, that together complement each other and became a whole image. In Starry Night and some other paintings of Van Gogh, these elements are connected so that winding lines are transformed into stars in the dark sky, energetic strokes in the ends of the cypress, curved surfaces created mountain crests, and geometric forms reflected the architecture of the place. The result of all these details is a Starry Night perceived through curves and lines with apparently delirious colours, although very well meditated. The contours were important for Van Gogh. Even when the impressionists lose the contours in their paintings, he kept them in his impressionist period to draw and limit the object in his pictures.

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