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The Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons Vs. Starry Night

By dustinbram Jan 10, 2014 2390 Words
The Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons
Vs. Starry Night

Turner, The Burning of the Houses of Lords and
Commons, 16th October, 1834, Oil on Canvas,
Philadelphia Museum of Art (1835)

Van Gogh, Starry Night, 1889, Oil on Canvas, The
Museum of Modern Art, New York

In the eery evening of October 16, 1834, a huge fireball blew up through the roof of The Houses

of Parliament. Creating an enormous blaze, to the horror of passerbys, it caught the attention of Joseph Mallord William Turner. Turner rushing to Parliament Square with his sketch pad, sketched the inferno as it blazed through the night. With these sketches he re-envisioned the hell that happened that night and captured history on a canvas that he finished in 1835. Moving forward towards the end of 1888, Artist Vincent Van Gogh's mental illness became worse, by threatening one of his best friends with a knife to cutting off part of his own ear. Van Gogh checked himself in to an asylum in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence later that year and there he painted the timeless landscape in his memory, Starry Night.” 1English Romantic painter Joseph Mallord William Turner’s imaginative vision in The Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons helped pave the way for Post-Impressionist painter Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night.

Both of these notable paintings were completed in the latter years of the artists lives. Yes, Turner, who is remembered as the best landscapist of the 19th century, successfully sold many of his works in

Artble: The Home of Passionate Art Lovers.“Starry Night Analysis | artble.com.”Artble, http:// www.artble.com/artists/vincent_van_gogh/paintings/starry_night/more_information/analysis (accessed October 11, 2013).

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the 76 years he lived. While Van Gogh in his 37 years may not of been able to gain as much experience and only selling one of his paintings, was however able to captivate something magical in his artwork unlike any other artist. “The late paintings of J.M.W. Turner and Vincent van Gogh represent pivotal moments in the development of Romanticism and Expressionism respectively- the one during the first half and the other during the second half of the Nineteenth Century.” 2 The Romanticist, J.M.W. Turner created The Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons with a unique focus that I believe indirectly lead Post Impressionist, Vincent Van Gogh to creating Starry Night.

The Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons
illustrates realness through color and brushstroke. When
viewing one of Turners paintings it is important to keep in
mind that his painting technique developed overtime so we

Turner, The Burning of the Houses of Lords and
Commons, 16th October, 1834, Oil on Canvas,
Philadelphia Museum of Art (1835)

see a big difference from his earlier paintings to his more advanced paintings. This painting is full of contrast through colors mainly. From the dark shadowy boat, to the bright part of the sky which resembles what we would actually see. To the rich warm colors in the fire and the contrasting dark blue/ greens in the landscape and river that when standing in the night you would see with such intensity and depth. The overall painting though has a rough texture vibe that the brushstroke creates. Which I believe played a major role in this painting, because instead of focusing mainly on the precise markings, he wanted to convey the realness of the situation within the mood of the composition using the powerful blazing flame to the darkness around.

Public Broadcasting Service. "Turner and Van Gogh: Color and Perspective as Inner Vision." PBS, http://www.pbs.org/wnet/powerofart/elessonturner.php (accessed October 16, 2013). 2

While this painting conveyed realness through
color and brushstroke. Turner was able to convey messages
within The Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons
which include: Nature’s power over man, and political
unrest in The Houses of Parliament. As the fire rages into
Turner, The Burning of the Houses of Lords and
Commons, 16th October, 1834, Oil on Canvas,
Philadelphia Museum of Art (1835)

the night, the people seem helpless as they witness this

historical event in awe. Thus showing us how nature still has control over man. This painting I believe also symbolizes political unrest within Parliament because originally the Houses of Parliament when built represented governmental stability, which so happened to burn down when the government was weak and vulnerable. “The fire occurred during a time of political change, and some regarded the event as a symbol of the need for further reform.”3

Starry Night was distinct from the Impressionist
technique of the 19th century by the unusual depiction within composition and style. Packed with whirling clouds, bright
yellow and white stars, and of course the large illuminating

Van Gogh, Starry Night, 1889, Oil on Canvas, The
Museum of Modern Art, New York

crescent moon. Vertical lines that make up the believed to be cyprus tree and church tower break up the composition smoothly without taking away from the night sky. Painting the rich colors of the night, Van Gogh is able to capture emotion, which I think was a very distinct element in Starry Night. Which lead him to having a somewhat unusual surreal and stylized depiction of a starry night. The swirling sky also helps to guide the viewer’s eye around the composition. Ensuring fluidity and outlines in his artwork was

Division of Education-Philadelphia Museum of Art. "Looking to Write, Writing to Look." Looking to Write, Writing to Look, http://www.philamuseum.org/booklets/12_71_131_0.html (accessed October 18, 2013).

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important to Van Gogh, but that was less significant to other Post-Impressionist. In a letter to his brother, “He did say that there was “exaggerations in terms of composition”...”4 The symbolic interpretations in Starry Night include:

isolation, sadness, and hope. The massive dark believed to be cyprus tree develops a sense of isolation within the artwork. As well as the small town in the middle of nothing but hills and Van Gogh, Starry Night, 1889, Oil on Canvas, The

Museum of Modern Art, New York

mountains offering a sense of seclusion. Sadness describes Van Gogh's life at this period in time. He is in an insane asylum and

probably feels like an unsuccessful artist due to his misfortune in art at the time. You can see this emotion being expressed as his feelings for isolation. Through the lonely dark “cyprus tree” and the overall setting. It also seems as though Van Gogh was showing through the night sky and light in the windows that even when it’s darkest their is always light to be found, which is hope. But to find that hope you need shinning stars to guide you there, which is why he included the bright stars I believe. He mentioned in a letter to his brother that, "I should not be surprised if you liked the Starry Night and the Ploughed Fields, there is a greater quiet about them than in the other canvases.””5As you can tell Starry Night brought him peace of mind, which I believe was a result of the hope he relied on. “It seems that van Gogh was finally being cured of his illness and had essentially found his heaven.”6

Goldberg, David. "Bytes: Starry Doorknobs." Bytes: Starry Doorknobs. http:// bytesdaily.blogspot.com/2013/01/starry-doorknobs.html (accessed October 20, 2013). 4

Goldberg, David. "Bytes: Starry Doorknobs." Bytes: Starry Doorknobs. http:// bytesdaily.blogspot.com/2013/01/starry-doorknobs.html (accessed October 20, 2013). 5

Artble: The Home of Passionate Art Lovers.“Starry Night Analysis | artble.com.”Artble, http:// www.artble.com/artists/vincent_van_gogh/paintings/starry_night/more_information/analysis (accessed October 11, 2013).

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Though each of these seem very different in comparison
to each other. The Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons as well as Starry Night reflect J.M.W. Turner and Vincent Van Gogh’s attention to individualism and personal style.
Expressionism in the Post-Impressionist era was very evident in Starry Night. The form took second place to Van Gogh’s

Van Gogh, Starry Night, 1889, Oil on Canvas, The
Museum of Modern Art, New York

personal style. Much like how Turner’s personal style as a romantic artist expressing a significant amount of attention to color rather than the line. The Romanist were know for their use of color over line, but Turner took it a step further through his personal style by using color to intensify emotion in portraying this historical event. Emotion carried throughout these two artworks by the use of color and line is one way that connects these artists. Van Gogh who painted Starry Night from memory was produced much like how Turner produced The Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons. Yes Turner had sketches, but both relied on memory and

imagination of how the colors, tone, and lighting should be
portrayed. Through this process we see there individual
expression of emotion shine through by their brushstroke,
intensity in colors, use of line, and fluidity within the
Turner, The Burning of the Houses of Lords and
Commons, 16th October, 1834, Oil on Canvas,
Philadelphia Museum of Art (1835)

artwork.

Turner’s work was a powerful representation of his own style within Romanticism, but was less symbolically stylized in the sense of Starry Night’s expressionism. The symbolic underlying meaning of Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night is more powerful than the meanings found in J.M.W. Turner’s The Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons. As I mentioned the symbolic nature of each artwork

earlier, that was just the more obvious meanings. Starry Night has a meaning far greater than The Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons. You may or may not know, but Van Gogh with a theologian as an uncle, was also very religious. While he was younger Van Gogh, being a student of theology, even served

as a missionary to the coal miners in the Belgian Borinage.
“Many art scholars believe there is a hidden religious
meaning to Starry Night. In the painting, the moon and stars in the night sky are surrounded by large halos of light while a

Turner, The Burning of the Houses of Lords and
Commons, 16th October, 1834, Oil on Canvas,
Philadelphia Museum of Art (1835)

church steeple stands out above the smaller, less detailed buildings in the town below. In fact, some art critics find a biblical meaning in the number of stars painted in Starry Night that alludes to specific Bible verse in Genesis.”7 The verse he is referring to is Genesis 37:9. It says, “And he dreamed yet another dream, and told it his brethren, and said, Behold, I have dreamed a dream more; and, behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me.”8 As you can see Van Gogh did not just have ordinary symbolic meaning like Turner portrayed, but deep spiritual meanings from within.

Van Gogh, Starry Night, 1889, Oil on Canvas, The
Museum of Modern Art, New York

As you can see Turner’s painting illustrates realness

through color and brushstroke. As well as conveying the message of natures power over man and political unrest in The Houses of Parliament. On the other hand, Starry Night was distinct from the Shabi, K. "Starry Night: Meaning of the Vincent Van Gogh Landscape Painting." Starry Night: Meaning of the Vincent Van Gogh Landscape Painting. http://legomenon.com/starry-nightmeaning-of-vincent-van-gogh-painting.html (accessed October 19, 2013). 7

“The Holy Bible.” Bartleby Bookstore. "Genesis 37. The Holy Bible: King James Version." Genesis 37. The Holy Bible: King James Version. http://www.bartleby.com/108/01/37.html#9 (accessed October 22, 2013).

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Impressionist technique of the 19th century by the unusual
depiction within composition and style. Along with having the symbolic interpretations of isolation, sadness, and hope. Both artworks however reflect Turner and Van Gogh’s attention to individualism and personal style. But the underlying religious connotation being portrayed in Starry Night makes it a more

Van Gogh, Starry Night, 1889, Oil on Canvas, The
Museum of Modern Art, New York

powerful work of art.
You may be questioning even after all the evidence
mentioned, how could Turner have influenced Van Gogh's
work? My hope is that it will completely make sense to
you after I further explain. As you have read, Van Gogh’s
unique style is separate from other post-impressionist,
Turner, The Burning of the Houses of Lords and
Commons, 16th October, 1834, Oil on Canvas,
Philadelphia Museum of Art (1835)

especially in the sense of symbolism. I believe this
symbolism is unique to Van Gogh without much outside

influence. I do however believe that Van Gogh’s style was influenced by many other artist. Such as Gauguin, Millet, Monet, Pissarro, and Bernard. The Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons helped pave the way for Post-Impressionist painter Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night, through Claude Monet. Which is one of Van Gogh’s main influences. I say that because when you look at Monet’s artwork you can tell how Starry Night had influences originating from Monet’s style. As well as documented sources proving that he was influenced by Monet. The interesting fact is that Monet has documented strong influences too. Which one of his main influences so happens to be J.M.W Turner. Along with Van Gogh’s travels to London, which possibly lead him in seeing actual work from Turner since he was such a success along with other Romanticist in the area, which could have influenced him as well as Monet. And that is why The Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons indirectly lead Post Impressionist, Vincent Van Gogh to creating Starry Night.

Works Cited
Artble: The Home of Passionate Art Lovers.“Starry Night Analysis | artble.com.” Artble, http://www.artble.com/artists/vincent_van_gogh/paintings/starry_night/ more_information/analysis (accessed October 11, 2013).

Division of Education-Philadelphia Museum of Art. "Looking to Write, Writing to Look." Looking to Write, Writing to Look, http://www.philamuseum.org/booklets/ 12_71_131_0.html (accessed October 18, 2013).

Goldberg, David. "Bytes: Starry Doorknobs." Bytes: Starry Doorknobs. http:// bytesdaily.blogspot.com/2013/01/starry-doorknobs.html (accessed October 20, 2013). Public Broadcasting Service. "Turner and Van Gogh: Color and Perspective as Inner Vision." PBS, http://www.pbs.org/wnet/powerofart/elessonturner.php (accessed October 16, 2013).

Shabi, K. "Starry Night: Meaning of the Vincent Van Gogh Landscape Painting." Starry Night: Meaning of the Vincent Van Gogh Landscape Painting. http://legomenon.com/starrynight-meaning-of-vincent-van-gogh-painting.html (accessed October 19, 2013). “The Holy Bible.” Bartleby Bookstore. "Genesis 37. The Holy Bible: King James Version." Genesis 37. The Holy Bible: King James Version. http://www.bartleby.com/ 108/01/37.html#9 (accessed October 22, 2013).

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