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Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890)

“When I look at the stars, I always start dreaming….”

“It often seems to me that night is still more richly coloured than the day; having hues of the most intense violets, blues and greens. If only you pay attention to it you will see that certain stars are lemon-yellow, others pink or a green, blue and forget-me-not brilliance.…it is obvious that putting little white dots on a blue-black surface is not enough.”
                            Vincent Van Gogh

Did you know?
The painting, Starry Night, existed only in the mind of Van Gogh.
Starry Night is probably Vincent van Gogh's most famous painting. Van Gogh painted Starry Night while in the asylum at Saint-Rémy during a difficult period in his life.

So where did van Gogh’s thoughts roam to create Starry Night?
The hills and the cypress trees are similar to those in the South of France where van Gogh frequented. His cypress trees look like flames and appear alive as if the entire painting is moving.

The village below is similar to his hometown in Groot-Zundert, a Dutch village, where van Gogh grew up.

And the moon and the stars are in perfect agreement with each other. The brightest star in his sky is actually not a star, but the planet Venus, the lowest in the horizon next to the cypress tree.


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The Starry Night [Nuit étoilée] (1889) By Vincent van Gogh
Oil on canvas, 29 x 36 1/4" (73.7 x 92.1 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York

  Vincent van Gogh Biography
Life: March 30th, 1853-July 29th, 1890
Place of Birth: Groot Zundert, Netherlands
Parents: Theodorus van Gogh (a pastor) and Anna Cornelia Carbentus
Life time occupations: A preacher, Teacher, Bookstore clerk, Art Dealer and lastly, an artist.

Although he made an effort to attend some formal schooling in the arts, after 2 months, and disagreements with his professor, van Gogh left the Academy of Fine Art in Antwerp. Mostly a self-taught artist, his early paintings were of the poor working class—his congregation when he was their preacher. This is evident from the dark mood and colors van Gogh utilized to depict the sadness of the poor and unfortunate.

Van Gogh’s association with his contemporaries strongly influenced his subject matter and brush work; his brush strokes give everything a feeling of movement. He was fascinated with Japanese art and also experimented with Pointillism -- developed by Georges Seurat and his followers late in 19th century France -- a technique of painting with tiny dots of pure colors that would blend in the viewer's eye to form the illusion of secondary colors.

After working fervently on his paintings, van Gogh reacted strongly to advice from Tersteeg (the manager of an art gallery in the Hague where van Gogh had worked):

. . . I cannot bear Tersteeg's saying to me over and over again, "You must begin to think about earning your own living." I think it is such a dreadful expression, and then it is all I can do to keep calm. I work as hard as I can and do not spare myself, so I deserve my bread, and they ought not to reproach me with not having been able to sell anything up to now.

I can assure you once more that I work hard to make progress on things which would be easy to sell, that is, watercolours, but I cannot succeed immediately. If I succeed in making them by and by, it would still be rapid progress, considering the short time I have been working. . . . [Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written 13 February 1882 in The Hague.

Vincent van Gogh went on to create over 800 paintings in addition to numerous water colors and drawings.

Herein lies the tragedy: During van Gogh’s entire lifetime he only sold one painting. After suffering recurring bouts of insanity, he killed himself at the age of 37, destute, alone and in despair.

During van Gogh’s entire lifetime he sold only one painting. After suffering recurring bouts of insanity, he killed himself at the age of 37, destitute, alone and in despair."

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