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Painting as a Medium in Van Gogh's Starry Night

Updated on February 18, 2014
A drawing Van Gogh completed after his painting "The Starry Night"
A drawing Van Gogh completed after his painting "The Starry Night" | Source

The artistic wonder that is Vincent Van Gogh’s The Starry Night was painted in 1889. It is one of his best known works of art, not only because he painted it about a year before his death at age 37, but also because of the technical detail he put into it. The use of colorful swirls twisting around and with each other to create movement in the sky without use of video is technically ingenious. Yet, the lack of movement is prominent within the village below because of the still, square, rigidness of the building structures. Additionally, it is said to be the view from his sanitarium window in southern France, which also makes it a highly person piece. We, as viewers of the painting, can see Van Gogh's interpretation of the world during a time in which he was exploring and working through mental problems. As you will read, even though it was painted over a century ago, the feelings and emotions it evokes are as prevalent today as they were when it was initially painted.

Van Gogh's "Starry Night"
Van Gogh's "Starry Night" | Source

Vincent Van Gogh’s The Starry Night. The Starry Night was painted in 1889 and currently resides in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. The overall flow of the painting is amazing. The Cyprus frames the valley and sky, opening them up to the viewer; almost introducing them as the focus of the picture while still yearning for attention itself. The Cyprus also creates a sense of 3-D in the painting by standing big and tall in the front of the picture, as opposed to the distant hills that are portrayed as being smaller in height. Moreover, the colors used perfectly contrast one another. The yellow of the moon and white of the center star demand attention but does not take too much attention because the color of the flow (created by line) of the sky in blues, blacks, light blues, lavenders, greens, and yellows forms a perfect balance. The sky seems to be swaying with the night breeze and the stars remain motionless halos in the movement of the night. The village below also seems to be motionless, stationary. Furthermore, the light color of the church also contrasts the sky and does not take away too much attention because the color of the hills and vegetation function like the sky does with the moon and stars. Then the upward stretching, line created, moving Cyprus perfectly balances the lighter colors with a much darker green. Additionally, the upward reaching Cyprus may also be a symbol of death to balance the upward reaching church. The presence of both life and death are felt so profoundly. The movement of the dark sky and Cyprus, which are both symbols of death and infinity, versus the immobility of the bright stars, moon, and village, which are symbols of life, almost creates a sense of irony because it is the symbols of death and infinity that seem to be moving in the night, rather than the symbols of life. However, to add to the irony, the movement of the symbols of death and infinity may also be present because most animals and humans sleep at night, an action that is as close to death as one can be while still alive; therefore, they may be moving to enhance the presence of death and infinity during the night. The flow of the night sky seems to be immense enough to last forever.

An enlargement of the painting to see all of the fine detail Van Gogh included.
An enlargement of the painting to see all of the fine detail Van Gogh included. | Source
Van Gogh's self portrait from Spring 1887
Van Gogh's self portrait from Spring 1887 | Source

The emotions evoked by the painting suggest that Van Gogh simply painted what he saw and felt and that he wanted others to share these feelings when viewing the painting. The painting had intrinsic value for him, and rightfully so because all of the emotions came out in all of the little details. Although he may have painted it for himself, the fact that the painting currently resides in the Museum of Modern Art's permanent collection in New York City means his feelings and emotions will be shared with others now and in the future.

© 2014 morningstar18


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