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Essay on Impressionism: Vincent Van Gogh and Background of The Starry Night

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“For my part I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream,” Vincent Van Gogh. Vincent Van Gogh was an artist who shaped the way of art in the late 1800’s. He used his art to give things with little meaning a story. Even if one is unfamiliar with art and artists, Van Gogh is an artist that almost everyone has heard of. He was born March 30th, 1853 in the Netherlands. He didn’t receive a full education because his parents needed help with money, which led him to going straight to the work force. He started off by working at the Hague gallery of the French art dealers at the age of sixteen ( Throughout the next few years, Van Gogh was transferred to London, then Paris through his company. In Paris he realized that being an art dealer was not his ideal job. He then became very interested in religion and wanted to eventually work as a preacher, like his father. He became a pastor in a village in Belgium, later leaving to dedicate himself more to art (Siegal). At this point, 1884, Van Gogh is an aspiring artist. In April of 1885, he completed The Potato Eaters, later to be one of his most famous paintings ( From here on out, Van Gogh was constantly creating paintings. He moved to Paris and discovered the impressionism and post-impressionism. Impressionism is described as “a radical art movement that began in the late 1800’s…. Impressionists rebelled against classical subject matter and embraced modernity” ( Impressionism shaped what artists created and how they perceived their art at the time. Post-impressionism describes the artists in France working in “widely different styles” (Sayre). Post-impressionism was a response to impressionism. Van Gogh was a part of the post-impressionism movement. During this time is when he created Starry Night, one of the most famous and recognizable paintings of all time.

The Starry Night was completed in June of 1889 while Van Gogh was a patient at the asylum of Saint-Paul-de-Mausole, a mental asylum ( He was known to have many mental issues and illnesses, some to which doctors are unsure of to this day, but the main ones to be known were bipolar disorder and epilepsy ( Many people think that his illnesses shaped and contributed to his artwork. The Starry Night painting shows many deeper meanings then someone may think when they first look at it. Not only did Van Gogh paint it in the mental asylum, but he painted his view from his room window. Some of the main points of the painting are the church, the stars, the cypress tree. Van Gogh was trying to be more into religion, so he painted a church which was similar to the one where he was from. It is said that during the time of this painting Venus was “indeed near its brightest possible” ( Van Gogh was very observant and adequately represented Venus as one of the stars. Another main point was the cypress tree. One of the ideas of the cypress tree is it is said to represent darkness in this painting such as death or suicide. On the contrary some say the tree “…reaches into the sky, serving as a direct connection between the earth and the heavens. Behind any artwork, there will always be a deeper meaning. Anyone can put a meaning behind an artwork, but only the true artist will know the purest meaning of it.

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One of the many beautiful things about art is that it can be made in any way, shape, or form. Starry night was painted on a 73.7 cm by 92.70 cm canvas ( Van Gogh used an oil medium for Starry Night, as he did for most of his paintings. A medium in painting is “a liquid added to paint that makes it easier to manipulate” (Sayre). An oil medium is one of the most popular mediums, especially around the time of the late 1800’s. Some other popular mediums are fresco, latex, tempera, watercolor, and acrylic. Van Gogh’s paintings are unique because he uses his brush strokes as if the painting is moving. It almost looks to be like there is wind in Starry Night because of the strokes. The strokes in his painting are one of the most unique things about it. It is said that the strokes and swirls represent emotions. Another feature that makes his paintings so beautiful is the use of colors. The Van Gogh used colors to in most of his paintings that really compliment each other. In Starry Night, Van Gogh uses mostly blues and yellows, which are almost opposite of each other on the color wheel and complement one another very well.

Starry Night is known to be made during the post-impressionism era. During this time is when artists, mostly painters, decided they wanted to start using their art to express themselves and their emotions rather than painting what society wanted them to paint. These artists were responding to impressionism hence the term “post-impressionism” by following their own “…diverse stylistic paths in search of authentic intellectual and artistic achievements” ( Post-impressionists used vibrant colors, such as the blues and yellows in Starry Night, and started to paint in thick strokes ( It really is a beautiful thing and something that made art into how it is today. Most of Van Gogh’s paintings have emotional meanings to them, especially Starry Night. Creating paintings was Van Gogh’s outlet, as is art for so many people today. This was the beginning of him putting himself into his paintings. Van Gogh was starting to feel what he looks at when a painting is completed.

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Essay on Impressionism: Vincent Van Gogh and Background of The Starry Night. (2022, December 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 5, 2024, from
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