Vincent van Gogh\'s Starry Night:

Understandings van Gogh















Sanjana Ahmed











Art 1000

Professor Barrow

May 16, 2015


Vincent van Gogh painted starry Night in 1889, just one year before he died. Van Gogh oil painting has many interpretations, one specific theme of van Gogh\'s painting communication of limitlessness. The painting shows a small town, sure to be the view from van Gogh\'s hospital window, shared the blue and huge night filled with glowing stars. The different interpretations of the Starry Night come from van Gogh\'s experience of poetry, personal religious conflict, astronomy and depression. All these factors contribute to the different views of the amazing painting.
Lewis M. Layman in "Echoes of Walt Whitman\'s ‘Bare-Bosom\'D Night\' in Vincent van Gogh\'s ‘Starry Night\'" shows a point of view that van Gogh tried to provide a visual interpretation of quotes from Whitman\'s poem Song of Myself. Van Gogh shows Whitman\'s descriptions of two universal things existing together in his painting. Whitman in his poem writes how the night\'s feminine characteristics of "bare-bosom\'d" and "nourishing" flow on to the earth\'s masculine characteristics of "liquid trees" and "mountains."(Layman 107). In van Gogh\'s painting details from Whitman\'s poem are depicted. The rounded hills being painted different shades of the blue sky, which is looking over the small town is a representation of Whitman\'s "bare-bosom\'d". Layman also talks about Marco Edo Tralbaut\'s interpretation of the crescent shape moon remembers the audience of the Chinese symbol of the Yin and Yang, two universal forces in existences (Layman 107). The sky and the town being so close to each other was stated in Whitman\'s poem, "press close bare bosom\'d night - press close magnetic nourishing night." Also the motion of the stars was phrase in the poem "night of the large few stars." (Layman 107). So, each star is uniquely different from each other.
Lauren Soth an art historian in her article "Van Gogh\'s Agony" expressed her point of view. Soth discusses that van Gogh always wanted to paint a night of stars. In three letters that were found to his brother, sister and a friend, van Gogh always wrote about the ideal night sky. Soth tells us that van Gogh\'s previous two paintings, Cafe Terrace at Night and Starry Night over the Rhone, are simply observations for the Starry Night (Soth 302). Van Gogh used observation and memory to paint the Starry Night. There was evidence of sketches of the element of the Starry Night while he was in the hospital of Saint Paul de Mausole at Saint Remy (Soth 303). From the window of his room he could look at the hills and cypresses. However, something he did not observe were the church and moon, these things came from his memory. Soth noted that the church changed from a dome to a steeple in van Gogh\'s sketches. According to Soth the steeple might have been a reminder of his homeland church (Soth 305). Though van Gogh\'s writing Soth revealed the intentions of van Gogh painting a night with stars. Van Gogh writes about how Gaugin and Bernard, both artists, encouraged van Gogh to paint with "imagination."(Soth 306). Also a named Delacroix, in another letter influenced van Gogh to use the colors citron yellow and Prussian blue (Soth 306). Van Gogh was impressed by how Delacroix display of colors. Likewise, van Gogh\'s use of the colors in the sky of Starry Night allowed the representation of a sky more serene and pure than reality (Soth 307).
Charles A. Whitney, in "The Skies of Vincent van Gogh," provides the viewpoint of an astronomer. Whitney believes that astronomy was a main influence in van Gogh\'s depiction of the reality in the night sky. According to Whitney van Gogh was very interested in painting observations of the night sky. There is evidence of letters and many trails before the Starry Night was created. For example, van Gogh describes his observations of the night sky: "the blue depth the stars were sparkling, greenish, yellow, white, pink, more brilliant, more sparkling gemlike."(Whitney 352). Van Gogh shows his interest in the night sky by the exploration of the stars. In a letter to his sister he says "I really enjoy doing a painting on the spot at night."(Whitney 353). Van Gogh was really interested in the sky.