Date of Creation:
New York, New York
Museum of Modern Art
The artist was aware that his Starry Night composition was somewhat surreal and stylized and in a letter to his brother he even referred to "exaggerations in terms of composition. " The vivid style chosen by van Gogh was unusual - he chose lines to portray this night scene when silhouettes would have been a more obvious choice.
In Starry Night contoured forms are a means of expression and they are used to convey emotion. Many feel that van Gogh´s turbulent quest to overcome his illness is reflected in the dimness of the night sky. The village is painted with dark colors but the brightly lit windows create a sense of comfort. The village is peaceful in comparison to the dramatic night sky and the silence of the night can almost be felt in Starry Night. The steeple dominates the village and symbolizes unity in the town. In terms of composition, the church steeple gives an impression of size and isolation.
In the left foreground is a curvy cypress tree which is typically associated with mourning. It is painted in the same way as the sky with fluid lines which enhances the flow of the Starry Night painting well as its easiness on the eye.
Van Gogh's use of white and yellow creates a spiral effect and draws attention to the sky. Vertical lines such as the cypress tree and church tower softly break up the composition without retracting from the powerful night sky depicted in Starry Night.
Vincent van Gogh´s choice of dark blues and greens were complemented with touches of mint green showing the reflection of the moon. The buildings in the centre of the painting are small blocks of yellows, oranges, and greens with a dash of red to the left of the church. The dominance of blue in Starry Night is balanced by the orange of the night sky elements.
Van Gogh paints the rich colors of the night and this corresponds with the true character of this Starry Night, whereby colors are used to suggest emotion.
In a letter to his brother, Theo, van Gogh comments: "I should not be surprised if you liked the Starry Night and the Ploughed Fields, there is a greater quiet about them than in the other canvases. " Later in the letter he makes reference to Leo Tolstoys book My Religion and its lack of belief in resurrection. Such fleeting mentions of religion echoed van Goghs feelings towards the subject at this time; he could neither forget it nor totally accept it. Despite this, his use of the word 'quiet' and reference to Tolstoys book indicates that the night sky made him feel calm and brought to mind eternity.
Starry Night shows the vast power of nature and the church spire and cypress tree - representing man and nature - both point to the heavens.
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