Starry Night is a blend of simplified forms, contours, lines, emphasis, movement, solid impasto, and contrasting colors that makes the work compelling to the audience. The masterpiece was composed by Van Gogh. He is remembered for his ability to compose paintings that were visually arresting over the course of his career that spanned a decade. Most of his artworks were largely watercolor. These artworks were biased towards nature. For that, landscapes became one of his popular themes as he was completely dissatisfied with the modern city. Contrary to other artists who resorted to depict places with earthly resemblance, Van Gogh was concerned more with the natural landscape. His artworks resonated with peasant farmers who were working in the farms, aspects that he observed firsthand. He admired their hard work and determination. Notably, some of his compositions depicted Dutch peasants in rural areas, delivered in dark, grumpy tones. Later, he moved to Paris where he was influenced with impressionists and Neo-Impressionists. These styles ensured that artists used matching colors and shorter brushstrokes. However, Van Gogh was able to develop his own style that used bright colors, loose brushstrokes, and emphasized on physical application of pain on layers of canvas.
Starry Night is a depiction of night sky by Van Gogh. This artwork was composed in 1888, oil on canvas, measuring 73.7 by 92.1 cm and can be viewed at The Museum of Modern Art, New York. In this art, the sky night painting is brimmed with moving clouds, bright stars, and a prominent crescent moon. The artist was able to render a natural sky whose setting prompts the audience to relate with the natural environment. The artist captured objects that vehemently direct viewers around the painting, especially the space he created between starts, clouds and other curving contours. The fusion of internal elements in the composition promotes fluidity, and these contours emphasize on the significant objects making up the composition. Thus, the Starry Night artwork was distinct from the Impressionist style widely practiced during the 19th Century in regards to the use of contours that was heavily criticized by impressionists. The composition was a mixture of surrealism and the self-styled style. For instance, he used lines to deliver the night sky when silhouettes would have been the best choice.
Van Gogh perfected the art of using design forms, especially with contours. In this artwork, these contours are meant to convey emotions. Visual artists believe that Van Gogh struggled to overcome his illness, and this is depicted on the dim night sky. As a sign of comfort and hope, the village is rendered through engagement of dark colors while the windows are brightly lit. The village is considerably peaceful compared to the dramatic sky. Further, the Starry Night artwork signifies silence of the night. Unity as a design principle is used to reveal a more united town occasioned by a dominating steeple. Isolation of the church is meant to depict the loneliness characteristic of rural setup. The artist has also delivered a cypress tree in the foreground of the art to reinforce the state of loneliness. It is similarly portrayed using fluid lines just like the sky which makes it easy for the audience’s eyes to move across the art.
Color, an element of art composition, adds value and effectively distinguishes objects making up a composition. However, Van Gogh’s choice of colors has been a center of debate from many quarters. Dominant yellow color is used to signify the problems that the artist was going through at the time. The trend of using bright colors is also observed in his later works. White and yellow colors necessitated the artist to deliver a visual spiral effect meant to attract the attention of the audience. Extraordinarily, the artist engaged vertical lines to render the tree and church but made sure that they diminished as they approached the dramatic sky. Moreover, there are traces of dark blue and green colors that blend with mint green to depict the reflection of crescent moon. Buildings are rendered through thin blocks of yellow, orange, green, and dash red colors, though dark blue dominates but balances with orange to make up some of the night sky elements. Fundamentally, colors have been used to convey the theme of emotion. In this art, colors are critical in providing a contrast between life and death considering that the stars are bright while the village is dull.
As an element of design, tone has been used to convey a state of hope. Even with the dark night, one is able to see light through the windows. The shining stars in the sky guides a person to their destiny. Finally, it looked like the artist was being cured of his sickness; he also believed that even if he died, it would be peaceful. Aspects such as the church and cypress tree represent man and nature that point to the heavens. Movement, a principle of design, has been achieved through thick brush strokes. This directs the eye of the audience within the composition, Van Gogh’s severe attacks further dramatizes the brush work. Emphasis has been delivered through consistency in the technique that supplements more depth, as well delivering a rich texture to this piece of work. Van Gogh used space to render the painting. The oil on canvas is visibly dominated by the moon and stars that take up 75 percent of the composition. These components appear tumultuous, uptight, and create whirling outlines that appear to rotate transversely like waves. The artist managed to communicate themes more openly as the audience can distinctly see the cypress tree, church, stars, and moon.
In my reflection, the artwork is based on direct observation, thoughts, memories, and emotions. The church is symbolic of native villages while the swirling forms also match astronomical observations. Today, people observe the sky to predict the future weather and climate changes or even events likely to occur in the future. This is a rare night landscape that fills the mind of the audience just like Van Gogh expressed his state of the mind at the time. The canvas is exceptional and the quality of the artwork is above board. The artist almost managed to use all the elements and principles of design. The theme of the artwork is emotions and hope. This is synonymous with the daily life of the people that is characterized by turbulent situations but hope keeps people going forward. The masterpiece is a blend of simplified forms, solid impasto, and contrasting colors that make the work compelling to the audience. Starry Night is significant in giving other artists the idea to consider doing night effect compositions. It is also a foundational image for the Expressionism movement to-date.
The Starry Night, Vincent Van Gogh 1889. Oil on canvas, 73.7 x 92.1 cm. Available at MoMA: www.moma.org/learn/moma_learning/vincent-van-gogh-the-starry-night-1889.