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Vincent Van Gogh’s artwork ‘Starry Night’ Essay

Vincent Van Gogh’s artwork ‘starry night’ is a classic example of the post impressionism movement. Post-impressionist were artist who rebelled against the limitations of impressionism. They developed person styles that focus on emotional, structural, symbolic and spiritual elements they felt were missing from impressionism. ‘Starry Night’ was created in 1889, earlier that year Van Gogh decided to enter the asylum at Saint-Rémy. ‘Starry night’ was inspired by the view from his window in the asylum. The painting was done on canvas with oil paints. The height of the paint 73.70cm & the height being 92.10cm. Van Gogh’s night sky is brimming with energy and it contrasts with the silent village below. The town he depicts in Starry Night is somewhat from his imagination. Though parts of it related to the view of the village, such as the church. Van Gogh includes a cypress tree in the left foreground which gives off an eerie mood.

The colours are deep and rich the lines are spiral and curved, the painting is top heavy and the stroke thick and rugged. The sky is organic, it spirals and the colours are deep and rich. The town below is barely noticeable in comparison to the sky which draws all your attention. The Cyprus is gloomy and coarse. It’s spikiness and darkness makes a negative space. “Throughout his career, Vincent van Gogh (Dutch, 1853–1890) attempted the paradoxical task of representing night by light. His procedure followed the trend set by the Impressionists of “translating” visual light effects with various color combinations. At the same time, this concern was grafted onto Van Gogh’s desire to interweave the visual and the metaphorical in order to produce fresh and deeply original works of art.” –MoMa (museum of modern art.) Van Gogh briefly yet fulsomely explores his special relationship with the darkness.

His colours provide and tendency but also an urgency. The clashing of all the colours is exaggerated and visually dramatic. The dominance of the yellow in contrast to the blues; all of the colours complement each other. There are rich blues that sink into greens then into yellows. It looks chaotic, but it’s really very orderly. The landscape is bright, but used to capture the night time. We can tell by the yellow lights in the windows–little splashes of light that bring a vast balance to the bright stars in the sky. This painting is all about balance and harmony. The fact that Van Gogh had painted this from his mental image may have contributed to this piece having such a strong sense of mental dislocation and emotional intensity. One almost feels as if he was hardly able to contain his feelings and that all his angst and passion seem to just splatter all over the canvas. That it was actually the emotions that were moving the brush rather than his hand. Vincent creates a perfect balance with line, the contrast between the spiralled night sky and the rough parallel curved Cyprus creates a lovely abstract image. The space and perspective created using line to emphasize the focal points of the painting.

The large cypress tree in the foreground should dominate the painting, but we’re drawn to the other elements–the moon, the stars, and the swirling sky because of the definition in their lines. It establishes perspective. It’s definitely in the foreground. The village is in the middle ground, the mountains and sky are background. It’s an amazingly calculated setting. The wavy, turbulent night sky almost mimics the sweeping hillside; makes for a very spiritual feel that carries through the painting. Compared to the human side of the painting (the town) which is very geometric and structural. Which makes you wonder, which part is chaos and which part is formulated? I feel that the town relates to Van Gogh’s life. It’s pretty quiet, everyone’s lights are out while they’re asleep totally unaware of the intense night sky that’s full of life, it makes me feel like he was trying to inform viewers of the ignorance of individuals. I think the village accurately represents a world, all of the people so unaware of raging passions that are going on around them. However to understand starry night to full extent, we must look at the big picture. Vincent Van Gogh was one of the great postimpressionist artists.

Postimpressionism was basically a rebellion against impressionism, which believed that art should reflect reality with natural colour and lighting. Postimpressionists believed that art is not meant to imitate form, but to create form. These artists took some inspiration in the world and then painted their world according to their own perceptions. As Van Gogh himself said, “We may succeed in creating a more exciting and comforting nature than we can discern with a single glimpse of reality.” They had no fixed style – their personal styles reflect on personalities, emotions and soul. Many critics say his bush strokes, odd shapes and painting style were ‘loony’. I don’t think so, tormented and troubled? Maybe yes. But crazy? No! I think Van Gogh executed this painting beautifully, and he knew exactly what he was doing. My interpretation of this artwork is probably different to many, as every individual has a different one. Everybody seems to be using different codes to decipher this piece. Truth being, no one can really know what Van Gogh’s own interpretations of ‘Starry Night’. For me, I’ve always thought Van Gogh was this tragic, anger-fuelled artist, who wished to do the best for humanity he was capable of. This painting spoke to me of belief and love of gods wonderful creations yet also the unmistakeable feeling of loneliness as if no one really saw things like he did.


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