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Starry Night Over the Rhone

By KaitlynMcCall Oct 04, 2014 713 Words
Starry Night Over the Rhone was painted along the banks of the Rhine River. What I first see when I look at this painting is the city lights reflecting off the water while a couple takes a walk on the nearby shore. The sky is filled with stars, including the Great Bear, commonly known as the Big Dipper. Van Gogh shifted the sky around in order to create an even more extraordinary display of stars. From his point of view the town of Arles lay to the south west; the Big Dipper he painted in the sky was actually in the north behind him. Towards the left you can see the towers of Saint Julien and Saint Trophime, and the bridge connecting Arles to Trinquetaille on the right. In the far horizon, a church steeple is shown. Starry Night Over the Rhone was described in a letter from Vincent Van Gogh as a cheerful piece, but when the painting was finished almost a year later, it had a revised mood and meaning. The work is dark, but serene. Many believe that the swelling depression in Van Gogh distorted the original sketch’s romantic charm. This painting is a reflection of inner torment and mental distress. The animated strokes, the bright, vivacious colors of the stars contrasting against the dark blues and blacks of the night reveal his cry for hope, light and love. The focal point of Starry Night Over the Rhone is the constellation of the Big Dipper. Vincent Van Gogh brings attention to the Big Dipper by using color and value. The sky is the lightest shade of blue around the Big Dipper. The bright yellow stars in the constellation contrast with the blue to bring focus to them. Van Gogh uses the lines in the ground under the couple and around the edge of the water to make a circular motion that brings the eyes back to the focal point of the Big Dipper. Van Gogh also uses contrasting directional lines in the sky to make the stars stand out. The texture of the entire painting is very thick because of the method of impasto that Van Gogh used. A closer look at the Starry Night Over the Rhone reveals that Vincent Van Gogh gave equal visual weight to all the things that he painted. In this painting there is no visual distinction between the earth and the sky. Van Gogh shows unity throughout the piece with the lights, both natural and man-made. For every star or group of stars there is a city light or group of lights, which then has a reflection in the water. At the waters’ edge near the couple, it is nearly impossible to see the distinction between land and water. The low contrast makes it hard to tell whether the ship is sinking in the water, or merely just docked. The bright lights have a high contrast to the dark blue-black sky and water. The way the water is depicted creates a rhythm that gives the illusion of waves rippling. The Starry Night Over the Rhone is an oil painting on canvas and the technique is broad and sweeping brushstrokes. Vincent Van Gogh also used the technique of impasto in this painting. Impasto is very thick application of paint, usually wet on wet. This technique gives the painting texture and movement. Van Gogh painted rapidly, with a sense of urgency, using the paint straight from the tube. Van Gogh painted emotionally, trying to “throw his heart onto the canvas” and evoke feeling. ( When I look at The Starry Night Over the Rhone, I feel infinite. This painting makes me feel at peace, like I could just look at it forever. It reminds me of the song “Bella Notte” from Lady and the Tramp. A quote I particularly like from Vincent Van Gogh is “I don’t know anything with certainty, but seeing the stars makes me dream.” This painting truly exhibits this quote. The Starry Night Over the Rhone is magical and beautiful. It is one of very few pieces of artwork that I feel this way about, which is why I selected it for this assignment. I can not imagine a better piece of art to own.

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