Brilliance of Van Gough’s Work The Starry Night Vincent Van Gough is one of the most well known artists of all time, and one of his most popular paintings, The Starry Night, is an expression of his mystical vision. Vincent Willem Van Gogh was born in The Netherlands in 1853, he was a mentally plagued man but in his times of clarity produced works of art that to this day continue to astound people (Frank P. 375). The Starry Night is oil on canvas landscape painting that Van Gough painted while in a mental Asylum at Saint-Remy in 1889 (Webmuseum).
The Starry Night is one of the most recognizable paintings in the world and Van Gough’s techniques used in this work of art have elements and principles of design that made it renowned, famous and still admired and studied to this day. The Starry Night, Van Gough uses the elements of art to create an inner, subjective expression of his response to nature (MoMA 35). Van Gough uses lines and shape in a soft manner; the lines are thick and curved to make organic, natural shapes that form the night sky.
The painting portrays the town as sleepy and quiet under the vast night sky with the cypress tree overtaking the countryside. He used horizontal lines to create depth in the night sky while the vertical lines on the cypress tree draw the viewer to the object as it overtakes the countryside. The contrasting colors between the stars and the sky and the use of color with the bright stars and dark background create the illusion of depth. The cypress tree also is magnificent when compared to the scale of other objects in the painting.
The curving lines of the cypress tree mirror the sky and create depth in the painting. He uses color in an expressive manner to create a dark night with glowing orbs that light the sky over the town. He starts with yellow and orange circles to depict the stars with a high intensity of color and then circles out with greenish yellow and white to contrast the low intensity colors of blue and black in the cool night sky. It creates the appearance that the stars and moon create a glow over the night sky.
The brush strokes and variation of shades of color that Van Gogh is known for creates a texture that make the painting seem rough but soft at the same time. Van Gough uses the elemental pieces of art to form the principle of his design. Swirls in the sky give the feeling of movement as the wind is blowing while looking over the town on a cold night. The swirls in the sky also draw the viewer to move their eyes across the painting and look down at the town and then back to the large cypress tree.
This is Van Gough’s use of asymmetrical balance and use of variety to let the viewer take in all the elements of the painting. The different sizes or proportion of the stars, town and cypress tree are all perceived different in real life, but Van Gough uses size to draw attention toward and away from objects while the similar brush stokes create a sense of rhythm and unity between all of them. “Connecting earth and sky is the flame like cypress, a tree traditionally associated with graveyards and mourning” MoMA 35).
The cypress tree is the largest object in the painting and gives emphasis to it that draws the viewer’s attention. My first impression of The Starry Night is that it is a nice picture of the stars at night, but after doing research and studying the painting I have a new appreciation for it. Van Gough in response to this painting said, “Looking at the stars always makes me dream. Why, I ask myself, shouldn’t the shining dots of the sky be as accessible as the black dots on the map of France?
Just as we take the train to get to Tarascon or Rouen, we take death to reach a star” (MoMA 35). I think the cypress tree shows how Van Gough was tormented by his mental illness and that his only escape to the stars that he admired was death. The way the stars were emphasized show admiration to them and he did a brilliant job of capturing and accentuating their beauty. The town could symbolize Van Gough being trapped in this sleepy and calm world when he actually is a trapped and tormented soul. The Starry Night tends to reinforce a sense of the artist’s isolation … and … seems to say that, for the artist, life is elsewhere” (Genocchio). As he longs to be free, death is the only escape through the cypress tree to reach the heavenly bodies in the vast night sky. ? Works Cited Frank, Patrick, and Duane Preble. Prebles’ Artforms: an Introduction to the Visual Arts. 9th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson /Prentice Hall, 2009. Print. Genocchio, Benjamin. “Art Review – Van Gogh in Moods, Both Dark and Light. ” The New York Times. 3 July 2008. Web. 04 July 2011. The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), MoMA Highlights, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, revised 2004, originally published 1999, p. 35. Web 02 July 2011. Van Gough, Vincent. The Starry Night. 1889. Muesum of Modern Art, New York. Page 375. Frank, Patrick, and Duane Preble. Prebles’ Artforms: an Introduction to the Visual Arts. 9th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson /Prentice Hall, 2009. Print. “WebMuseum: Gogh, Vincent Van: The Starry Night. ” Ibiblio – The Public’s Library and Digital Archive. Web. 03 July 2011. .