Starry Night Painting Anlysis

Category: Art
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Vincent van Gogh was a post-impressionist artist. Van Gogh sought refuge from severe depression at the Saint-Paul asylum in Saint-Rémy, France. In 1889, while looking out a window, he became inspired to paint Starry Night. He wrote this to his brother Theo, “This morning I saw the countryside from my window a long time before sunrise, with nothing but the morning star, which looked very big.” (Unknown, Starry Night n.d.) van Gogh was not content to just paint an imitation of the world, he wanted to recreate the emotions experienced while viewing it. (Lewis and Lewis 2014) van Gogh used his memory of that morning and the emotion it provoked combined with his imagination to form a masterpiece.

Starry night is a moderately sized oil on canvas painting depicting a brilliant star filled sky over a small village. In the foreground there is a large dark cypress tree that towers into the sky. The tranquil village is seen as if from a hilltop with dark blue mountains surrounding it. There is a church in the center of the village with a tall steeple. The composition is structured by van Gogh’s ordered placement of the cypress, steeple, and central nebulae. (Unknown, Starry Night n.d.) He uses short, fast brush strokes and impasto to generate the swirling pattern of the sky producing a sense of movement. The night sky with the moon and the stars makes up three quarters of what is shown on the canvas. The dark browns and blues used for the mountains, village and sky produce a stark contrast with the bright yellows and greens that portray the moon and stars.

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There are various interpretations of Starry Night. Some feel that this canvas depicts hope, and that maybe van Gogh had found victory over his deep depression. Van Gogh believed that death represented the vehicle that would transport him to the heavens (Unknown, Starry Night n.d.) so maybe he meant for the sky to be seen as a passageway. He also knew that in death he would be at peace and further portrays this by employing bold colors in the painting. (Unknown, Starry Night Analysis n.d.) Starry Night stirs up conflicting emotions. The village seems to be at peace while the sky is alive with motion. It is as if the light of the moon and the stars is at war with the darkness of the night. They seem equally formidable and there is no apparent sense of which one will overpower the other. The sky seems more like a river through the heavens than just the backdrop for the stars.

Starry Night is considered one of the most complex and beautiful paintings of all time. Van Goghuses the elements to capture the viewer’s attention. In a room full of paintings, Starry Night will stand out. At the time of its creation, it was considered different from the other post-impressionist art. Van Gogh’s work was not genuinely appreciated until after his death.

Vincent van Gogh’s emotional distress can be seen and felt in his work. Starry Night is innately unbalanced, and very dynamic. Van Gough helped pave the way for modern expressionism. Viewers may debate the purpose and meaning of this piece however, it is well established that Starry Night is one of the greatest pieces of art ever created.  

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Starry Night Painting Anlysis. (2021, Apr 26). Retrieved from