Starry Night

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The Starry Night is an oil on canvas painting by the Dutch post-impressionist painter Vincent van Gogh. Painted in June, 1889, it depicts the view from the east-facing window of his asylum room at Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, just before sunrise, with the addition of an idealized village.

Although The Starry Night was painted during the day in Van Gogh’s ground-floor studio, it would be inaccurate to say that the picture was painted from memory. The view has been identified as the one from his bedroom window, facing east, a view which Van Gogh painted variations of no fewer than twenty-one times, including The Starry Night. “Through the iron-barred window,” he wrote to his brother, Theo, around 23 May 1889, “I can see an enclosed square of wheat . . . above which, in the morning, I watch the sun rise in all its glory.”

Van Gogh depicted the view at different times of day and under many weather conditions, including sunrise, moonrise, sunshine-filled days, overcast days, windy days, and one day with rain. The hospital staff did not allow Van Gogh to paint in his bedroom, but he was able to make sketches in ink or charcoal on paper, and eventually he would base newer variations on previous versions. The illustrative element uniting all of these paintings is the diagonal line coming in from the right describing the low rolling hills of the Alpilles Mountains. In fifteen of the twenty-one versions, cypress trees are visible beyond the far wall enclosing the wheat field. Van Gogh telescoped the view in six of these paintings, particularly in Wheat Field with Cypresses and The Starry Night, bringing the trees closer to the picture plane.

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