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Pop Commentary: Starry Night

In 1889, Van Gogh painted “Starry Night” while he was seeking treatment in Saint Rémy, a mental asylum in France. Starry Night is perhaps one of his most famous and elusive works. Unlike most of Van Gogh’s works, Starry Night was painted from memory and not outdoors, since he was stuck in a mental asylum. His behavior was very erratic at the time, due to the severity of his attacks. This may, in part, explain why the emotional impact of the work is so much more powerful than any of Van Gogh’s other works from the same period.

The painting illustrates a vast landscape that depicts a peaceful town with a church spire in the background and a cypress tree in the foreground. This emotional, visually arresting piece is fueled by intense colors, dark moody tones, curved spiral stars, and wavelike brushstrokes. The textures used, ultimately create the idea of movement throughout the piece. The painting’s contoured forms are a means of expression and they are used to convey emotion.

To understand Van Gogh’s style of painting in Starry Night a little better, we have to look at the big picture. Van Gogh communicates his psychological struggle, current state of mind, and portrays emotional intensity throughout the work that acts as the main embodiment of his unique style and artistic expression. There is more to the meaning of Vincent Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” than just insanity and isolation. Considering the fact that Van Gogh was going thorough such a dark time in his life, the painting portrays strong feelings of hope, conveyed through the moon, sun, and bright lights of the stars, shining down over the dark landscape.

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