The Starry Night is perhaps Van Gogh's most popular painting. He completed the painting in June 1889, while undergoing treatment at the St. Remy de Provence mental asylum, a little over a year before his untimely and tragic suicide at the age of thirty seven. Van Gogh had voluntarily committed himself to the institution in a last-ditch effort to save his sanity. It was a vain effort, but the time period was Van Gogh's most productive; he completed 142 paintings between May 1889 and May 1890.
Starry Night (oil on canvas) first and foremost is a reflection of the turbulent and torturous combination of manic ecstasy and melancholy that battled for control of Van Gogh's mind. Even the title itself is a bit of an oxymoron, for the planetary bodies depicted by Van Gogh are so bright and overstated as to almost bring the feeling of daylight to the painting.
The use of greens, and yellow (for the stars and moon), and the striking blue for the night sky, are perfect examples of Van Gogh's remarkable use of colors. The artist himself was cognizant of his vibrant and unusual color technique, freely using it as a tool of self-expression instead of mere reflection.
In Starry Night, the stars and moon themselves seem to leap into the foreground and into the consciousness of the viewer due to the unusual color choices employed to portray them.
Also, the moon and each star in the painting are not only oversized, but each possess exaggerated coronas which appear to almost be whirling, creating a sense of dizzying centrifuge-like momentum in the painting that serves to drawn in and hypnotize the observer. They appear to possess a clockwise rotational pattern, as do the cloud formations under the stars, which also carry a sense of rightward movement. It is as if the clouds, stars, and moons are mini-hurricanes, each an individual emotional tempest which contributes to the vast sense of urgency.The urgency is not random, however; the organization and control behind the...