Van Gogh painted this piece in 1889 while he was in Saint Rémy seeking treatment in a mental asylum. Interestingly enough, he painted this piece from his memory and it was supposed to have been based on a constellation arrangement he had seen earlier on in the night sky of Provence. Starry Night is perhaps one of his most famous and yet most elusive works.
The first thing that I noticed was the overwhelming night sky, which takes up most of the background. Its swirling, flowing lines appear to be swishing across the background in this gentle, wavy motion and seem to be merging at the centre to form this spiral-like formation. Eleven fiery yellow stars that look like huge fireballs illuminate this whole piece and contrast with the cool blue, fluid night sky that takes on an amazing variety of shades of blue and grey. There is also the crescent moon at the top right hand corner that radiates a more orange, brighter light from the rest of the stars. The view of the night sky and village is partially blocked by this huge cypress bush in the foreground. It has this writhing quality to it and its black green colouring stands out to the rest of the relatively pastel piece. The houses are tiny and inconspicuously painted in the bottom right corner of the painting and blend in quite well with the forest and mountains. The architecture of the village is quaint and simple and no light illuminates the village, giving the impression that everyone there is probably asleep. In general, his brush strokes are heavy and thick and have this insistent, hectic rhythm to it. As a result, this painting has an illusion of constantly being in motion.
The fact that he had painted this from his mental image may have contributed to this piece having such a strong sense of great 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 have spilled onto this piece. The moon and stars seem so...
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