Taste of culture

Learn and enjoy: art, music and words enable us to discover where we come from, so we can decide where we’re going.

Starry Night

This canvas is considered one of the masterpieces of the post-impressionist painter Vincent Van Gogh. It’s a blend of modernity and Romanticism, painted in a period when the artist had voluntarily admitted himself to the Saint-Paul-de-Mausole lunatic asylum at Saint-Rémy-de-Provence (Arles, France).

Vincent Van Gogh. Zundert, Netherlands, 1853-1890 Influenced by the impressionist movement, he went one step further, standing out from the rest by using his own, singular technique, marked by thick, sweeping, pasty brushstrokes. He also painted such mundane subjects as his own slippers, a chair, his bedroom, and so on. But he went on to be considered one of the greatest exponents of Post-impressionism. For Van Gogh, his art wasn’t a form of therapy and he didn’t paint in times of mental breakdown; he was a highly educated man, concerned with current affairs and future modern art. He dreamed of an art free of conventions but, above all, art that was popular and close to the people. He made about 900 paintings and more than 1,600 drawings.

1. Critical of capitalism

They say that his spiral shapes, the cypresses, the peasants’ cottages illuminated by the fires in their hearths, or the motifs in the sky – the stars and the planets – contain symbols taken from an old Romantic anti-capitalism dictionary.

2. Tribute to the rural world

Van Gogh projected the dream of a world unpolluted by the miserable life of grey, overcrowded cities. With this evocation of tradition and the quiet life of the country, the artist sets out to depict rural purity.

3. Between two lands

Though the painter’s inspiration came from his views of the French countryside at St. Paul de Mausole, this work was painted from memory without copying the real thing. That’s why, as the pointed church spire reveals, this little town follows the Dutch model, rather than the French.

4. Beyond the moon and stars

Being the son of a protestant clergyman, Van Gogh was profoundly religious. This, together with his deep knowledge of the Bible, leads some people to see an allusion to the book of Genesis in his depiction of the moon and stars.

5. Goodbye to the myth of madness

The artist’s use of vibrant, twisted shapes and vivid, expressive colours led to creation of the myth that Van Gogh suffered bouts of madness. This was never true, though his state of health deteriorated due to the medication he was taking and his reckless lifestyle. However, he certainly had epileptic attacks and some kind of organ dysfunction.

6. The planet Venus

We can see a shining white star. In one of his letters to his brother Theo, Van Gogh commented: “This morning I saw the country from my window a long time before sunrise, with nothing but the morning star, which looked very big.” According to astronomers, this star was the planet Venus!

You can find further information on the Van Gogh Gallery website.