An Analysis of the Oil Painting of Starry Night over the Rhone
How it works
The painting I selected was Vincent Van Gogh’s oil painting of Starry Night Over
the Rhone from September 1888. The painting shows what looks like a harbor and the surrounding city. In the foreground, there is a couple walking up from a wooden boat that is resting next to the bank. The middle ground is made up of the water in the harbor that is reflecting the lights of the town. Then in the background, the near by town and the night sky provide the light with in the painting.
How it works
Light is a very important part of this painting. The yellow colored reflections on the waters surface throughout the middle ground allow the viewer to see that it is the light from the town that is casting the lights on the water. The other light source that is in this painting would be the stars. The stars do not look like they add to the light on the waters surface, but they do help to light up the sky. The viewer can see how the stars light the sky because of the color of the sky that surrounds the stars. The actual star is a light yellow color and the sky around the stars is a lighter blue that then fades out to a dark blue as it the sky goes on away from the stars. It is with the different lines of color that the view’s eyes can be lead around the painting.
There is an abundance of lines within this painting. Even though most of the brush strokes are horizontal, there is a nice mix of vertical lines as well. At first glance, the vertical yellow reflections that create the lines on the waters surface, capture the eyes and lead them between the town in the background and the boat in the foreground. The brush strokes also create lines in the foreground that helps draw attention to the bank and then to the couple that is walking up from the bank. The brush strokes also lead the eyes around the town. There is a line between the water and the actual town that creates what looks like a horizontal line that spreads across the entire painting. The brush strokes surrounding the stars in the background also help the eyes travel from one star to the next. There are many details to see as the lines lead the eyes around the entire space of the painting.
The space of this painting seems to be very realistic. All of the proportions are believable and natural looking. It looks like the viewer would be viewing this image from a slight distance with the continent in the background being smaller than the figures in the foreground. The couple and the boat in the front of the foreground are larger because they are the closest things to the viewer. Although, it is harder to see the figures in the foreground since there is no direct light source to highlight their faces. The water and sky take up the majority of the image, which would also be very believable if the viewer were to look out on a harbor.
This image makes sense in many ways. Throughout the painting, it does not seem as smooth as if there was no evidence of brush strokes, but that also works for this painting in ways. The waters surface is not something that would generally be smooth, and by having the many brush strokes it creates visual movement in the image. Also in the foreground, the wispy strokes help to represent the look of swaying grass and causes it look as if there might be some wind. Although, there are some places within the painting that would have more effect if they were smoother. The town seems to be a little choppy with the numerous brush strokes and takes away from some of the realism. There is not going to be as much detail in the background, but there could still have been more concise brush strokes to connect the town.
Overall, this painting is a very naturalistic view of a what a person would see if they were to look out on a harbor at night. The lines and color provide interesting paths for the eyes to follow around the painting. The painting is not an image that would overly excite the viewer, but instead present a calming nature. The colors give the feeling of tranquility and a sort of stillness to the viewer. The time seems to be frozen in this image, and leaves the viewer to wonder and want more and for that reason is a very effective painting.