The Starry Night of Van Gogh. 5 unexpected facts about the picture.

Vincent Van Gogh. Starry Night. 1889. Museum of Modern Art, New York.

The Starry Night is one of Van Gogh’s most famous paintings. What is so unusual about it?

Why, once you see, you will not forget it?

What kind of air vortices are depicted in the sky?

Why are stars so big?

And how did the painting, which Van Gogh considered unsuccessful, become a reference masterpiece for all expressionists?

I have collected the most interesting facts about this picture. They, in turn, reveal the secret of her incredible appeal.

1. “Starry Night” created in the hospital for the mentally ill.

The painting was painted during the difficult period of Van Gogh’s life.

Six months before this, cohabitation with Paul Gauguin ended in a nasty way.

Van Gogh’s dream of creating a southern workshop, a union of like-minded artists, did not materialize.

Paul Gauguin has left. He could no longer stay with an unbalanced friend. Quarrels every day. And once Van Gogh cut off his earlobe. And he handed it to a prostitute who preferred Gauguin.

Just like a bullfight. The cut off ear of the defeated bull was given to the winner.

Vincent Van Gogh. Self-portrait with cut off ear and tube.
Vincent Van Gogh. Self-portrait with cut off ear and tube. January, 1889. Zurich Kunsthaus Museum, Private Collection of Niarchos.

Van Gogh could not stand the loneliness and collapse of his hopes to create a community of artists.

His brother put him in a mental hospital in Saint-Remy. Here was created “Starry Night.”

All his spiritual strength was strained to the limit. Therefore, the picture was so expressive. Bewitching. Like a bunch of bright energy.

2. “Starry Night” is an imaginary, not a real landscape.

This fact is very important. Because Van Gogh almost always worked from nature.

This was the question because of which they most often argued with Gauguin.

Paul believed that imagination should be used. Vincent had a different opinion.

But in Saint-Remy he had no choice. Patients were not allowed to go outside. It was forbidden to work even in their own room.

Brother Theo agreed with the hospital authorities to give the artist a separate room for the studio.

So in vain, researchers are trying to find out the constellation or determine the name of the town. Van Gogh took all this from his imagination.

Vincent Van Gogh. Starlight Night. Fragment.
Vincent Van Gogh. Starlight Night. Fragment. 1889 Museum of Modern Art, New York.

3. Van Gogh depicted turbulence and the planet Venus.

The most mysterious element of the picture. In a cloudless sky we see swirling currents.

Researchers are sure that Van Gogh portrayed such a phenomenon as turbulence. Which with the naked eye can hardly be seen.

His mind was like a bare wire due to a nervous illness. To such an extent that Van Gogh saw what an ordinary person could not do.

Vincent Van Gogh. Starlight Night. Fragment.
Vincent Van Gogh. Starlight Night. Fragment. 1889 Museum of Modern Art, New York.

400 years earlier, another person realized this phenomenon. A person with a very subtle perception of the world. Leonardo da Vinci.

He created a series of drawings with swirling streams of water and air.

Leonardo da Vinci. The flood.
Leonardo da Vinci. The flood. 1517-1518 Royal Art Collection, London.

Another interesting element of the picture is the incredibly large stars.

In May 1889, in the south of France, people could observe Venus. It Inspired the artist to portray bright stars.

You can easily guess which of the stars of Van Gogh is Venus.

4. Van Gogh believed that The Starry Night – a failed picture.

Van Gogh painted a picture in a typical manner. Thick, long strokes are carefully laid next to each other. Juicy blue and yellow colors are very pleasing to the eye.

However, Van Gogh himself considered his work unsuccessful.

When the picture got to the exhibition, he casually responded about it: “Maybe it will show others how to portray night effects better than I did.”

Such attitude to the picture is not surprising.

After all, it was not drawn from nature. As we already know, Van Gogh was ready to argue with others to the last, proving how important it is to see what you draw.

Here is a paradox. His “unsuccessful” picture became a reference for expressionists! For whom the imagination was much more important than the outside world.

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5. Van Gogh created another picture with a night starry sky.

This is not the only picture with night effects. The year before, he drew The Starry Night over the Rhone.

Vincent Van Gogh. Starry night over the Rhone.
Vincent Van Gogh. Starry night over the Rhone. 1888. Museum d’Orsay, Paris.

The Starry Night, which is held in New York, is fantastic.

The cosmic landscape overshadows the earth. We do not immediately see the town at the bottom of the picture.

In The Starry Night from the Orsay Museum, the presence of man is more apparent. Walking couple on the promenade. Lights of lanterns on the far shore.

And Van Gogh painted this work in the plein air, that is, from nature.

Perhaps it was not in vain that Gauguin persuaded Van Gogh to use his imagination more boldly. Then such masterpieces as The Starry Night would have been born much more?


When Van Gogh created this masterpiece, he wrote to his brother: “Why can’t the bright stars in the sky be more important than the black dots on the map of France? Just as we take a train to get to Tarascon or Rouen, we also die to get to the stars”.

Van Gogh went to the stars very soon after these words. Literally in a year. He shot himself in the chest and died of blood loss. Maybe it’s not for nothing that the moon is waning in the picture …


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Van Gogh Paintings. 5 Masterpieces of the Brilliant Master

Photos: Wikimedia Commons

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