“Analysis of Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night”, Essay Example

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Essay

The “Starry Night”, painted by Vincent Van Gogh is an oil painting on canvas measuring 73 x 92 that was created in June of 1889.  Starry Night has come to be one of the most well-known paintings in modern day culture and one of the most replicated prints in art. Vincent Van Gogh only sold one painting during his lifetime; however, he has come to be one of the most famous artists of all times.  Vincent Van Gogh was born in Holland in 1853 and traveled to Paris in 1886 where he began to paint in short brushstrokes like the impressionist during that time period. Van Gogh was troubled with some personal issues, possibly a brain disease or lead poisoning and ended up cutting a portion of his ear lobe off. (Van Gogh Gallery)  He was admitted to Remy a psychiatric hospital, called Saint Remy.  It was at Saint Remy where he created the famous masterpiece, “Starry Night”. (Life of Van Gogh)  His troubled personal life explains why the picture was a nocturnal piece with an underlying drama to it.  The elements in the painting of lines, lighting, space, color, principles of balance and focal point all illustrate the drama that the artist was undergoing during his creation of the “Starry Night”.

Van Gogh paints a night sky and swirls the clouds and lights the clouds to shine their own luminescence, as well as a shining bright crescent moon.  The lines in the sky of the painting are interesting because it keeps the viewer’s focus moving across the painting.  In addition, the lines curve and create an onward movement that attracts the viewer and keeps them involved with the painting.  Furthermore, Van Gogh uses unique thick brush strokes that are very obvious to the viewer.  It has been hypothesized that his harsh brush strokes are in relation to his mental status while he was painting; however, all of his paintings do show consistency with his unique brushstroke.  The ironic thing about the hard brushstrokes and the meaning of the brushstrokes is that Vincent himself felt more at ease with that technique in painting.  For instance, he wrote a letter to his brother, Theo, and stated, “I should not be surprised if you like the Starry Night and the Ploughed Fields, there is a greater quiet about them than in the other canvases” (Artble).  Even though there were harsh brushstrokes and the painting was set at night, Van Gogh made portions of the painting bright and filed with starts. This brings us to the lighting in the painting.

Within the brushstrokes, as mentioned previously, there is light that guides the viewer through the dark night.  This illustrates Van Gogh’s favor for nighttime. He makes the sky extremely powerful as it sits above a small town.  He swirls the colors and lines that incorporates both the color and light that he uses throughout the painting.  The sky is painted with white clouds and bright stars.  The main lighting in the painting is the bright shining starts and the crescent moon.  The shining stars illuminate the sky, as well as the large crescent moon. The heaviness of the brushstrokes and the rich colors give a sense of chaos.  There are also lights shining brightly from the windows of the houses in the town below, but it looks more peaceful than the chaotic sky.  It was been thought that this was Van Gogh’s way of making peace with his illness and finding his way to heaven.  The light in the sky and houses therefore represent hope that even in a dark night, there is light.  Basically, he was giving himself hope through the lighting exemplified in the painting, telling himself that no matter how dark a time is there is still hope. In addition, the letter written to his brother indicates that the lighting made him feel calm and relaxed.   (Artble)

In addition to the brushstrokes and lighting, Van Gogh creates spacing in his painting that allows the viewer to move their eyes between the stars and the curves in the sky to create a dot-to dot effect (Artble).  The spacing creates a fluid movement of brushstrokes resulting in a calm and beautiful piece. It was indicated during the Van Gogh’s time, the Impressionist painters were not focusing on this type of spacing in their art work, making Van Gogh’s work unique and extremely distinct for the 19th century. (Artble)

Van Gogh’s chose the color yellow and blue as the dominant colors in the painting. He also used these colors in many other of his later pieces of art. As mentioned previously, it is said that he was suffering from some sort of brain illness or possibly lead poisoning and it is rationalized that is what influenced Van Gogh to use such different colors in his art work for that time period. He used the bright yellow paint along with white to create the spiral clouds in order to bring attention of the viewer to the sky portion of the painting. He also uses green and other colors in the town, such as orange and red to offset and make the yellow stand out more. Overall, the choice of the bright and rich colors of the night is what draws so much attention and captivates the viewers in this unique piece of art.

There are different forms that are used in the painting, including balance. The balance in the painting is shown through the movement of the brushstrokes that starts on the left end of the painting towards the center, where it becomes the main focus of the painting. The balance is also shown through the harmony that is created with the numerous stars that are in the sky and the houses that are represented below. In addition, balance is made through the position of the cypress trees and the crescent moon in the sky.  The combination of the moon, houses, and rolling hills is what ultimately creates a sense of balance in the painting. (Scribd)

The focus of the painting is the lines.  The lines in the painting are two different types, a long-term bend and a short-term bend that alternates giving the viewer an engaging feeling.  Looking at the painting, the viewer can focus on the harsh brush strokes of the alternating lines and focus on the bright colors made of those lines. The main focus of the Starry Night also leads the viewer to think about how different Van Gogh’s technique was compared to other artists during the 19th century.  While looking at the Starry Night it is easy to look at all the focal points in the painting and realize that Van Gogh was an interesting individual and used his emotions and whatever he was going through at the time to paint his pictures, without following the rules of the time. While he was alive he only sold one painting and now many of his works of art are masterpieces.  (Scribd)

There are different reasons why Van Gogh may have painted the Starry Night in the manner that he did. For one, since it was painted during his stay at Saint Remy, it is supposedly his version of his view from his room there.  In regard to the form, objects, color, lighting and technique, it has been theorized that both his mental status and the socioeconomic status of the culture during that time period may have influenced the artwork.  For instance, he was just hospitalized for cutting off his lobe and he uses harsh brushstrokes to represent the dark night.  The cypress trees in the painting give a more gentle approach and may represent the townspeople who were farmers during that period, in which he may have thought of hard working individuals.  On the left side of the Starry Night painting there is a large dark object that could represent negativity or rejection.  Perhaps Van Gogh added that in the painting to describe his feelings of rejection from society and the lack of interest in his paintings at the time. (Scribd)
Overall, the Starr Night is an amazing painting with great depth and unique technique.  It is one of the paintings of over all time that majority of individuals, whether educated in art or not, recognize or have hanging in their home.  The uniqueness of the color, lighting and brush strokes alone represent a unique masterpiece.

Works Cited

Arble. Starry Night Analysis. Web. 2012. Retrieved on April 1, 2012 from: http://www.artble.com/artists/vincent_van_gogh/paintings/starry_night/more_information/analysis

Life of Van Gough. Analysis of Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night. WOeb. 2011Retrieved April 1, 2012 from: http://www.vangoghgallery.com/misc/bio.html.

Scribd. Web. Retrieved on April 1, 2012 form: http://www.scribd.com/doc/57425684/Vincent-Van-Gogh-The-Starry-Night

Van Gogh Gallery. Vincent van Gogh: Biography. Web. 2011. Retrieved April 1, 2012 from: http://www.vangoghgallery.com/misc/bio.html.

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