Cave to Canvas: “Art and Context explained through Van Gogh’s Starry night.”

Camille Denmark, Reporter

  The “Starry Night” is one of Vincent van Gogh’s most celebrated works on the night sky over a small hillside village. It’s become a fan favorite and due to it being over 100 years old it’s become part of the public domain, which allows for it the modified for personal and commercial projects. Resulting in being printed and sold on just about anything-everywhere; Backpacks, coffee mugs, totes and every tissue and toilet paper all dawn the 1889 masterpiece. Yet due to its bright color and winding whimsical brushstrokes that allow for its easy commercialization, many forget its original substance.

  Van Gogh painted The Starry Night during his 12-month stay at the Saint-Paul-de-Mausole asylum near Saint-Remy-de-Provence, France, after several months of suffering a breakdown in which he severed part of his ear with a razor. During his stay at the asylum, his output of painting was dependent on his alternating mood of despair. Moreover, van Gogh was an artist who worked from observation, and the asylum limited the subjects around him resulting in him painting himself, views outside his studio window and the surrounding countryside he could visit with a chaperone. His subjects were restricted, but his style most definitely was not, and that is where van Gogh truly shines. He experimented with different conditions and changes in light and even allegedly wrote to his fellow painter Emile Bernard in a letter that “The night was more colorful than the day and that starts were more than simple white dots.” Originally van Gogh wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a Calvinist pastor like his dad, but after failing his academic training he became disenchanted with the pastoral ministry and left the church for good in 1880, and directed the rest of his desires to art.

  The Starry Night is litter with symbols of the church, intertwined with the stars, it is very apparent that the loss of his spiritual life influenced his work, and this is his ode to the loss of his faith and his deteriorating mental health would not only influence his artwork but lead to his downfall, as this was one of his last works. Since in 1890 the impressionist painter would commit suicide in his room in northern France.