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Joy of Museums

Museums, Art Galleries and Historical Sites

“Starry Night Over the Rhône” by Vincent van Gogh

Starry Night Over the Rhône by Vincent van Gogh

Starry Night Over the Rhône by Vincent van Gogh

“Starry Night Over the Rhône” is one of Vincent van Gogh’s most famous paintings.  The painting of Arles at night time was painted from the quay on the east side of the Rhône River. This spot was only a two-minute walk from the Yellow House, which Van Gogh was renting at the time.

Van Gogh described this painting in a letter to his brother Theo:

” ….  in short the starry sky painted by night, actually under a gas jet. The sky is aquamarine, and the water is royal blue, the ground is mauve. The town is blue and purple. The gas is yellow, and the reflections are russet gold descending to green-bronze. On the aquamarine field of the sky, the Great Bear is a sparkling green and pink, whose discreet paleness contrasts with the brutal gold of the gas.”

The blue colors dominate, and the city gas lights glimmer with an intense orange that is reflected in the water, and the stars sparkle like gemstones.  The light in the night sky fired Van Gogh’s imagination and resulted in some of his most famous paintings, including:

Vincent Willem van Gogh - Cafe Terrace at Night

“Cafe Terrace at Night” at the Kröller-Müller Museum 

Van Gogh - Starry Night

“The Starry Night” at the Museum of Modern Art. NY

Before any of these paintings were painted, Van Gogh wrote to his sister:

“Often, it seems to me, the night is even more richly colored than a day.” 

Van Gogh painted “Cafe Terrace at Night” first, in which the night sky was not the dominant feature, then with “Starry Night Over the Rhône,” the night sky became more dominant. A few months later, Van Gogh was confined to a mental institution, where he painted “The Starry Night,” in which his distress was expressed in trees shaped like flames and the night sky and stars swirling in glorious colors. Throughout these three paintings, the night sky had become the dominant feature.

Before his troubles, Van Gogh was pleased with his “Starry Night over the Rhone” painting, as he mentioned it admiringly several times in letters to his brother Theo and he made copies of it in a letter sketch as well as in a drawing. We can easily visualize Van Gogh smiling as he reflected on his Rhône painting, which is akin to fireworks in a blue night sky.

Starry Night Over the Rhône

  • Title:                Starry Night Over the Rhône
  • Artist:              Vincent van Gogh
  • Year:                1888
  • Medium:          Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions     72.5 cm × 92 cm (28.5 in × 36.2 in)
  • Museum:         Musée d’Orsay, Paris

Vincent van Gogh

A Tour of the Musée d’Orsay

Starry Night Over the Rhône, reflections?

  • Was this painting, Vincent van Gogh’s first attempt at creating star fireworks in a blue night sky?

~~~

“If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.”
-Vincent van Gogh

~~~


Photo Credit: 1)  Vincent van Gogh [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons 2) Vincent van Gogh [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons 3) Vincent van Gogh [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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