The famous Dutch artist Vincent Van Gogh painted Starry Night in 1889. The painting has become a masterpiece of the history of art and its influence on world culture cannot be overestimated. It is one of the most frequently reproduced paintings in the world. Despite this, little is known about the artist and his work, or the circumstances that gave birth to Starry Night.
Van Gogh was born on March 30, 1853 in Groot-Zundert near the town of Breda in Holland. He was the son of a Protestant pastor who was an uncle of Vincent Van Gogh’s father. He began painting at an early age and from 1869 studied at a technical school for drawing in Tilburg. His work did not attract any particular attention at this time, but in 1876 he went to Brussels, where he became acquainted with the Impressionists and became one of their followers. In 1886 he married an alcoholic and sickly woman named Johanna Bonger. After several years of working for art dealers and portrait commissions, he chose in 1888 to devote himself entirely to his own work. That same year he moved to Arles to be near his brother Theo, who was instrumental in promoting his career (the letters between them are considered some
The painting “Starry Night” by Van Gogh is one of the most recognizable paintings in the world. The fact that it’s his most famous piece says something about his talent, but also about how well-known this painting has become. But do you know how it came to be?
Vincent van Gogh swallowed a bottle of turpentine in despair after his work was rejected by a Parisian art gallery in 1889. His brother, Theo, retrieved him from the hospital and brought him back to their Yellow House in Arles to recuperate.
Towards the end of his life, Van Gogh decided to welcome the warmer weather and moved to southern France with Theo. He was fascinated with the night sky and painted several works depicting the evening sky while he lived there. But it wasn’t until he painted this masterful piece that he captured such a vivid impression of the night sky.
What’s so amazing about this painting is that Van Gogh was literally looking at the stars when he painted them! He would have turned off the lights in his room and opened his window so that he could see the stars better (if you look closely at the painting, you can even catch a glimpse of him lying on his bed). Then, using this
This painting by Vincent Van Gogh is one of the best-known works in art history. Called “Starry Night,” it depicts the village of Saint-Rémy, located in France. Van Gogh began the painting in June 1889 and completed it just before leaving the asylum where he was staying.
The sky is filled with swirls of paint, and a few stars can be seen. Green hills fill the foreground, and layers of buildings are visible in the background. The work is thick with texture, color, and movement. A few days after finishing this piece, Van Gogh was transported to a hospital in Paris where he stayed until his death in 1890.
Tulips In Spring
I’m not a huge fan of art. I don’t enjoy the majority of pieces that I see in museums, and I find it hard to discern what makes art valuable and artistic. The fact that an artist has labored for years on a piece makes it no more beautiful than something made by the average person. Art, I assume, is some sort of expression from the human soul. But why do we value this expression over other forms of expression?
And then there’s the money. Art is incredibly expensive, and many artists who sell their work make very little money off of it. If a painting sells at auction for $200 million, shouldn’t all the people involved in creating it share in the proceeds?
I had these thoughts sitting in front of Van Gogh’s painting “Starry Night.” It was all very confusing to me, but I wanted to understand, so I decided to research the painting and its history. What I found changed my entire opinion about art….
The artist, who had spent his entire life painting in the service of other artists, was now going to make a living by selling his own art. Naturally, he needed a better agent.
At the time, Vincent van Gogh was living in The Hague in the Netherlands. He had been there since late 1883, when he moved there to work for an art dealer named Anton Mauve.
Mauve had taken him on as an assistant after seeing some of his drawings, and Van Gogh’s job included making copies of paintings by Dutch Old Masters like Jan Steen and Rembrandt. Soon after he arrived, Van Gogh had written home to his brother Theo that he would be starting work on copies of “as many works as possible by one or two old masters.”
He was working on a copy of Rembrandt’s “The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp” when Mauve decided to take him along on a business trip to Paris—the first time Van Gogh would see the city where he would one day make his name.
Mauve introduced Van Gogh to several of his friends during their stay in Paris, including Paul Gauguin—a French artist who had recently come
Art historians are still divided as to whether Van Gogh painted “Starry Night” in the clinique de malades or not. However, we can assume that the artist stayed in the hospital for about a week, because it was during this time that he wrote to his brother Theo about his plans.
Here’s what he said:
“I am working with verve and pleasure again; it seems to me I am getting a better grasp of my work with each thing I do.”
The painting is the last part of a series of four paintings of wheatfields which Van Gogh painted just before leaving Saint-Remy. It was Van Gogh who decided where the new paintings would be sold, so it’s quite possible that he had already made up his mind on what he would do next.
He picked Arles (which was only two hours away from Saint-Remy by train) and the wheatfields surrounding Saint-Paul-de-Mausole because they were “fatally fascinating,” as Vincent later wrote to his brother Theo.
Monet was also attracted by these colorful lines of ripe wheat. He visited Van Gogh several times in Arles and even borrowed some of his ideas for his own paintings.
It wasn’t until early
Van Gogh painted the Starry Night in the Saint-Rémy asylum near Arles, France. The Starry Night is not a literal view of the sky above the asylum but rather a reflection of his mental state during his stay at the institution.
Toward the end of May 1889, Van Gogh voluntarily admitted himself to the St-Paul-de-Mausole psychiatric hospital near Saint-Remy for “acute mania.”
Koenig (2009) notes that St-Paul-de-Mausole was an old monastery that had been converted into a hospital, and Van Gogh only stayed there for one month before returning to his home in nearby Arles. During that time he had access to an adjacent cell he used as his studio. He was reasonably content and confident enough to begin painting again.
He completed nearly 150 paintings during his stay at St. Paul’s. Many of them were later shown at an exhibition in Paris in 1890 arranged by Theo, who believed Van Gogh had reached his artistic peak while at St. Paul’s and wanted to take advantage of his brother’s renewed creativity.
Van Gogh painted “Starry Night” only a few weeks after leaving the asylum, and it is likely that this work