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Vincent Van Gogh and His Starry Night

Vincent Willem van Gogh was a Dutch painter who is world-famous for his post-impressionist work and has produced countless globally prominent works of art, from his many varied self-portraits to his famous scenes depicting The Potato Eaters and The Night Café. Van Gogh lived during the mid to late 19th century (1853 – 1890) and produced many iconic paintings that are now revered across the art world. It is estimated that he created over two thousand pieces of art, including over 850 oil paintings.
Van Gogh suffered from psychotic episodes and spent much time in psychiatric hospitals. In one of his worst episodes, he used a knife to cut off a substantial portion of his left ear during an argument with his friend and fellow artist, Paul Gauguin. It is said that he presented his ear wrapped in tissue to a woman at a local brothel. This story is commonly misunderstood and presented as a romantic tale where he cuts off his ear for the woman he loves.
Van Gogh’s most famous painting is undoubtedly his 1889 oil canvas painting depicting the view from his window in the asylum in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, France. This was painted in the direct aftermath of his episode which saw him remove part of his ear, after he voluntarily committed himself to the institution. The Starry Night shows a warped, imposing monastery spire overlooking a fabricated village that he added himself. The swirled sky and bright yellow moon, all painted with thick, unblended strokes, is the most iconic and instantly recognisable aspect of the painting.
Van Gogh painted many different versions of his view during his one year stay, The Starry Night was the only version depicted during the nighttime. Incredibly, Van Gogh painted the view from his second floor bedroom window at night, but he actually completed his painting in the ground floor art studio, during the day. He was not allowed to paint in his bedroom, but was able to take some sketches and each painting served as reference for each subsequent version.
Most of Van Gogh’s work was completed during the last two years of his life, a year of which was spent inside the psychiatric hospital. Tragically, Van Gogh was never recognised for his artistic talent during his own lifetime, and died without ever reaching commercial success. His fame came after his death, when public perception of him changed from a drunken madman to a misunderstood genius. Today, van Gogh’s paintings are amongst the most expensive in the world, and The Starry Night hangs as a permanent part of the collection at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

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