One of the most beloved paintings by Van Gogh is The Starry Night. Painted in 1889, the work depicts the view from the east-facing window of Van Gogh’s room in an asylum in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, just before sunrise. The brushstrokes in the dreamlike painting mimic the movement and feel of an active night sky.
In 1889, following a breakdown that resulted in the self-mutilation of his left ear, Van Gogh admitted himself to Saint-Paul-de-Mausole, a monastery that catered to the wealthy. The asylum was less than half full when Van Gogh arrived, which allowed him to occupy a ground-floor room for a painting studio, in addition to his bedroom. In the year he spent there, the painter produced some of his most iconic works, including Irises (May 1889) and his blue Self-Portrait (September 1889). The Starry Night was conceived in mid-June, according to a letter to his brother Theo about his recent study of a starry sky.
Van Gogh often wrote Theo about his paintings. He wasn’t pleased with the first draft of The Starry Night; the famous painting was actually the second version of his starry night study. Astronomers later found that one of the stars in the painting was actually Venus and not the “morning star” as he has expressed to his brother. The village featured in the painting has been variously identified as either a recollection of Van Gogh's Dutch homeland or based on a sketch he made of the town of Saint-Rémy. In either case, it is an imaginary component of the picture, not visible from the window of the asylum bedroom.
This oil-on-canvas painting dominated by a moon- and the star-filled night sky is currently in display at The Museum of Modern Art in New York. As arguably Van Gogh's most famous work of art, it is safe to estimate the value of The Starry Night at well over 100 million dollars.
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