Starry Night: a Great Painting by a Great Artist

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“Art is to console those who are broken by life” was said by one of the most well-known artists in history, Vincent van Gogh. Van Gogh is considered to be one of the many greatest post-impressionist painters in history. He has done more than 2,000 works, consisting of 1,300 watercolors, drawing, and sketches, and 860 oil paintings. In his lifetime, he went through many tough times, such as facing mental illness and getting sent to an asylum. Through the harsh phases in his life, art helped him stay emotionally balanced and stable. One of his well-known masterpieces is “Starry Night”, which was created in June 1889. It has a unique history and symbolism, uses prominent elements and principles of art, and has changed my personal view about art.

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This piece of art incorporates the elements of art such as texture and color. The texture is conveyed through his use of brushstroke. He uses thick brushstrokes to create an actual texture on the canvas. Also, the big cypress tree and swirling clouds display texture. Another element being used is color. Van Gogh uses various shades of blue to create a cool tone. Furthermore, he uses white and yellow and creates a spiral effect to draw attention to the night sky. He uses the colors blue and yellow to show the difference between the light and darkness. A theory on why the artist used bright colors such as yellow is because of his excessive consumption of absinthe, a liquor that contains thujone. It is believed that this made him see everything with a yellow hue, hence the use of yellow in his artwork. The principal of art being used in this painting is movement. Movement is shown in the night sky by the swirling sky.

First, the history behind the piece is important. At the beginning of 1888, Van Gogh was working with another painter, Paul Gauguin. After a harsh and intense argument, Vincent cut off his left ear. Then, he got admitted into the Saint- Paul- de- Mausole asylum. He was suffering from a form of epilepsy, caused by lack of food and too much consumption of alcohol and coffee. Just when he was recovering from his illness, he relapsed again. As he stared out the iron-barred window, he saw the night view of the peaceful village and decided to base his painting off the nocturnal scene of the quiet little village with the help of his imagination. His pursuit to overcome his mental illness is reflected in the dimness of the nocturnal sky. According to, the cypress tree in the foreground symbolizes immortality. Looking at the painting, one can see that the tree reaches the sky, acting as a connection between heaven and earth.

Art isn’t something I’ve valued and enjoyed before this, but now I have grown to be appreciative towards it. I personally like “Starry Night” because I feel at peace with myself whenever I gaze at the beautiful night sky. I’m mesmerized by the swirling movement which beautifully portrays the night sky. I really like the fact that this painting is based on fantasy and reality. He painted it based on the scene he saw from his window but he added his own creative touch, which I admire. Before writing this essay, I had no idea about Van Gogh’s history; however, throughout the process, I acquired many new pieces of information about him. For instance, I learned that he cut off his own ear and was suffering from a severe mental illness. I learned that each painting has its own unique history and to truly appreciate art, one must learn about history first.

 All in all, Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” has a rich history, contains the elements and principles of art, and has made me more appreciative towards art. Van Gogh was a troubled man, who decided to end his own life, but he created amazing and creative art. His paintings have become iconic and are known to be the world’s most expensive paintings.“ Several of his paintings now rank among the most expensive in the world; Irises sold for a record of $53.9 million, and his Portrait of Dr. Gachet sold for $82.5 million”. He reshaped the way people think and view art, making a huge impact on society today. He would be happy knowing that he changed people’s perspective towards art.

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