AES142 Starry Night
Sunday October 10 2021, 11:33 PM
AES142 Starry Night

"The cracked mind lets in light the whole mind cannot see." - R.D. Laing

A beautiful dream-like landscape with evocative swirling stars and galaxies, “Starry Night” by Vincent Van Gogh is one of the most famous paintings that ever existed. Even people who are not familiar with the world of art will most likely be able to name this piece. This speaks volumes about how much beauty and emotion is evoked by this painting, and the story behind this piece and its artist are also definitely worth sharing.

Vincent van Gogh was one of the most interesting artists that ever lived. His story is one of tragedy, beauty, struggles and perseverance. It’s common knowledge that Vincent Van Gogh suffered from mental illnesses (particularly mania, bipolar disorder and depression) but some of the movies lean too hard on this aspect, and always portray him as some kind of wild crazed artist. But most of the time that’s not who he was, Vincent Van Gogh was oftentimes a perfectly rational, intelligent, articulate and sane person. He created his art despite his mental illnesses, not because of it.

His story began soon after suffering from a particularly intense manic episode, seeing hallucinations and hearing voices, which culminated in Vincent cutting off his own ear. After this incident he was admitted to a small mental institution in the countryside of Saint-Remys. This particular institution believed that kindness, understanding and spending time in nature is crucial for wellbeing and recovery of their patients. When Vincent arrived, the doctors quickly realized that he had a tremendous amount of unsatisfied creative energy within him, and so they provided him with the tools and space necessary to pour out his creativity into paintings. In this regard, art would keep him alive. 

Vincent would dedicate most of his days painting, with his time in the institution, he managed to create It was on the 18th of June 1889, as Vincent was staring out his room into the beautiful countryside, listening to the crickets and taking in the mystical night air; he looked up and saw the stars in the sky. Something about this picturesque scene burned itself in Van Gogh’s mind, and he was determined to paint what he was as soon as he could, as the patients are locked inside their rooms every night. This meant that he had to hold on to this inspired image of a starry night, all the way until morning, where he could finally go to the studio, and pour it from his mind into the canvas. 

"For my part I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream."

In Starry Night, Van Gogh manages extraordinarily;  to capture light in motion. Even though it is only a still image, you can actually feel it moving and swirling in slow hypnotic sways. 

You can also notice that the swirling lights resemble the wave from a Japanese painting I’ve discussed before, “The Great Wave off Kanagawa”, this greatly inspired Van Gogh, from the striking blue tone and the shape of the skies. It is this unique brush technique and colourful expressive palate sets apart Van Gogh style among the post impressionists.

I am seeking, I am thriving, I am in it with all my heart.”

There is also another source of inspiration we can gleam from Vincent Van Gogh, he only started to paint when he was 30 years old (self taught too!), and he spent the next 7 years of his life honing his craft, painting non-stop everyday until he developed his own unique style; that would eventually grant him worldwide appreciation and recognition after he died. It’s never too late to start, you can channel your thoughts, feelings and your creative spark into works of art. Vincent never let his misfortunes and conditions stop him from sharing the beauty he saw with the world. 

“If I am worth anything later, I am worth something now. For wheat is wheat, even if people think it is grass in the beginning” -Van Gogh