Expressionism: Van Gough's Starry Night

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During the Modern Era of the late 19th century and the early 20th century, many artists were turning away from the idea of painting realistic images. Photography, having just been developed for public use a few decades earlier, made artists of the day focus less on painting as an precise copy of what is seen, as had been done for centuries. Since the Middle Ages, most artists painted exact representations of life. Starting in the late 1800s, though, many artists were starting to embrace the theory of art as an impression of what is seen. Impressionism, the art movement that began in the 1870s in France, was the first real development of this new concept of painting. Impressionists, such as Claude Monet, sought to put on canvas how they saw light and nature. Unlike the artists from centuries before, the Impressionists were not interested in painting images of nobility or religion; instead they focused more on painting ordinary people and nature. Post-Impressionism, which occurred about a decade later, still used similar subject matter, however, focused more on the structure and form of the subject while still portraying the impressions of light and atmosphere on the subjects and its surroundings.

One of these Post-Impressionists was the Dutch artist, Vincent van Gogh. Van Gogh believed that art was a form of expression. Painting was an emotional and spiritual experience for him. He painted not only how he interpreted his surroundings, but his sensations and feelings on his subjects. One of his most famous paintings, The Starry Night, is a perfect representation of this Post-Impressionistic style of painting.

With its swirling colors and lines, The Starry Night, incorporates not just the color and light that is found in the earlier works of these painters, but it shows how forms and feelings also came into play. One of van Gogh's main beliefs was that art was a direct representation of how the artist feels. Having grown up in a very religious...
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