Vincent van Gogh’s enigmatic art and life have been in the news recently by way of the brilliant film “Loving Vincent”, the first fully painted feature film, which was released last fall. Seeing his paintings come to life on screen made us want to take a closer look at his most famous image, The Starry Night.
“This morning I saw the countryside from my window a long time before sunrise, with nothing but the morning star, which looked very big,” Vincent van Gogh (1889) describing his inspiration for the masterpiece in a letter to his brother Theo.
The Starry Night is a depiction of the village of Saint Remy in southern France as seen and rendered through van Gogh’s eyes and interpretation. The painting is dominated by the swirling, turbulent sky full of pulsating stars and a large glowing moon. The large flame-like form on the left side of the painting is a cypress tree, which visually links the land and sky. The cypress can have two meanings here: symbolically as a bridge between life (earth) and death (sky/heaven), and also as a symbol of sadness and mourning, known as the tree of the graveyard. While the painting is rooted in van Gogh’s observations, there are many elements drawn from his imagination, memories and emotions. The church steeple is closer to those seen in van Gogh’s homeland of Holland rather than France, where he was living when he created the painting. However, the elements of the moving sky match astronomical observations recorded at that time, which grounds the image to reality. There are many in-depth analyses of The Starry Night including interpretations of color, motif, astronomy, and van Gogh’s mental state at the time. These elements all contribute to the fascinating nature of this image, and enduring legacy making it one of McGaw’s best selling posters. Licensed directly from the Museum of Modern Art, where the painting resides, The Starry Night is available in a range of print sizes. Shop now.