Vincent Van Gogh is a treasured artist among art lovers, whilst the main things everyone else knows about him is that he painted twelve sunflowers in a vase, had a ginger beard and chopped off his own ear.
But his painting The Starry Night is world-famous, and its intoxicating use of complementary colours to inject energy and tension into the painting are as familiar to us as its head-spinning swirls that represent the sun, the stars and the moon. And because people the world over love it so much, The Starry Night is most often found on picture postcards.
But there is history behind every painting and The Starry Night is no exception. And just incase you wanted to know a little bit more about this enchanting piece of art, let’s take a look at 9 surprising things you never knew about it.
1. The Village Is Subjectively Depicted
Van Gogh was one of the first expressionist painters, and he made no attempt to accurately reproduce reality as it was. As such, his skies were not always blue but instead were coloured so as to reflect his mood.
The village painted in The Starry Night is partially inspired by the village that was situated across from his asylum, but it is also pulled from his own pool of subjective images. It is also thought that his homeland, the Netherlands, helped to form the village so depicted.
2. He Got The Idea To Paint It Whilst In An Asylum
By the time Van Gogh painted The Starry Night, his already fragile mental state had deteriorated, and he had been submitted to the Saint-Paul-de-Mausole asylum.
Yet rather than view his temporary imprisonment as an obstacle, the mystical Van Gogh was inspired. The painting actually depicts his view from the asylum, and as he told his brother Theo in a letter: “This morning I saw the country from my window a long time before sunrise, with nothing but the morning star, which looked very big.”
3. Starry Night Depicts Sunrise
Some commentators have in the past discussed the idea whether Van Gogh was rendering sunset or sunrise, but it is agreed upon that The Starry Night is a subjective depiction of sunrise.
4. Van Gogh Painted A Number Of “Starry Nights”
Lots of painters painted several versions of the same subject, and Van Gogh was no different when it came to The Starry Night. Prior to this version, he had already painted the original Starry Night, which has acquired the name Starry Night Over The Rhone.
Indeed, Van Gogh soon became deeply interested in the subject of how the stars lit up the night sky, and painted several paintings that could easily warrant the name Starry Night.
5. Van Gogh Didn’t Actually Like It
Van Gogh’s own scathing assessment of his universally treasured work is atypical of the critical eye that artists gaze over their own pieces. When writing to his brother, he spoke of a number of paintings he had down around the same time as The Starry Night. Of these paintings he says:
“The only things I consider a little good in it are the wheat field, the mountain, the orchard, the olive trees wit the blue hills and the portrait and the entrance to the quarry. The rest says nothing to me.”
We can deduce that The Starry Night is among “the rest.”
Well, we like it, Vincent!
6.He Actually Referred To It As An Outright Failure
Yup, the great man later referred to The Starry Night is a total failure. The reason why is that he said it was too abstract because the stars were “too big.”
7. The Planet Venus Is In It
Thirty years ago, Albert Boime of UCLA decide to compare the great painting to a modern planetarium’s rendition of how the night sky would have appeared to Vincent as he painted it on June 19th, 1889. It was consequently proved beyond any doubt that the “morning star” in the painting is, in fact, Venus.
Perhaps they should rename it The Starry Night And Venus. Just so we’re all clear, you know?
8. Van Gogh Never Managed To Sell It
Whether Van Gogh managed to sell one or two paintings in his own lifetime, or whether he didn’t sell any, is still the subject of much debate. But what is clear is that the magnificent Starry Night wasn’t sold whilst he was still alive.
9. It’s A Religious Painting
Vincent Van Gogh was well known for being a deeply religious man, and as a result it is much argued that The Starry Night is a deeply religious painting. Art critics have written about its “traditional religious subject in disguise,” as well as it being a “sublimated image of Vincent’s deepest religious feelings.”
It is even said that the blue and yellow colours that Van Gogh used represent Christ. Moreover, the crescent moon is also said to represent “consolation.”
10. You Can See Elements Of It In The Movie Poster For Midnight In Paris
Whether Midnight In Paris director Woody Allen is a fan of Vincent Van Gogh is neither here nor there, but he chose to use elements from Starry Night for the poster for his movie Midnight In Paris.
In the poster Starry Night forms Paris’ backdrop, as Owen Wilson strolls towards us.