A Closer Look at The Starry Night

By Rica Isabel Sia Tai (2007-26188)


Having to write about a painting of our choice, the first thing that came to mind was Van Gogh’s masterpiece, The Starry Night.  This piece has been close to my heart ever since because just by simply looking at it, I’m held into a trance that emotionally and spiritually calms me.

Vincent Van Gogh’s Self Portrait

This oil painting was brought to life in 1889 by no other than Dutch post-impressionist artist Vincent Van Gogh while he was detained in a mental facility in Saint-Remy-de-Provence. He painted the view from his sanitarium window, the center part of the village of Saint-Remy under the swirling night sky, though he painted this from memory during the day. The Chaines des Alpilles mountain ranges in Provence served as the background of the painting as he added a cypress tree in the composition as well.  There were 11 stars in varying sizes in the painting that was said to be a reference to Genesis 37:9, which says: “And he dreamed yet another dream, and told it to his brethren, and said, Behold, I have dreamed a dream more; and behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me.” Van Gogh used a mix of his unique brush strokes applied on serene colors combined with bold splashes of blue and black hues.  After he finished the painting, Van Gogh made a reed pen version of The Starry Night. Currently, this priceless painting is available for viewing at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City as part of its Lillie P. Bliss Bequest permanent collection since 1941.

The Starry Night (1889) in Oil by Vincent Van Gogh

The Starry Night (1889) in Reed Pen by Vincent Van Gogh

The Starry Night is a classic as it surpasses time, and bridges cultures and beliefs. It has been an inspiration to a number of movies already. One of which is in 1999 entitled Starry Night, a romantic-fantasy film about Van Gogh himself and another is a Taiwanese drama film that was just released last 2011 entitled Starry Starry Night.

Starry Night (1999) Film

Starry Starry Night (2011) Film

Not only has this painting been used for motion pictures, it has also served as an inspiration for musicians.  In 1971, Donald “Don” Mc Lean wrote the song Starry Starry Night as a tribute to the late Van Gogh.  In this song, he described his utmost admiration for the late painter and he included references from the painting itself. At the end of the song, he also mentioned about Van Gogh’s sanity and death and how he struggled through depression.

Don McLean, Starry Starry Night Album (1971)

Today, we can witness how this masterpiece has influenced the current generation.  We can still see numerous Starry Night merchandise in the market, from shirts to neckties to Apple product (iPod, iPhone, Macbook) skins! It has also been adapted into symphonies, musicals, books, and many more art forms. It has become a brand of culture and it has already represented a certain social stature along with it.

The Starry Night iPad Skin

Personally, I’d like to visit and see the actual painting in the near future so that I can feel mesmerized in its simplicity and get lost in its wonder. It has survived through many years for a reason and it still wins millions of hearts no matter what age, race, religion, gender, nationality, or culture.  The painting speaks a language that everyone understands and it brings about immeasurable amounts of pleasure to the appreciators of its beauty.  As the future comes, Van Gogh and this painting will surely become more legendary than ever – touching lives and inspiring the imminent future.