Collection 1880s–1940s

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Vincent van Gogh. The Starry Night. Saint Rémy, June 1889 521

Oil on canvas, 29 x 36 1/4" (73.7 x 92.1 cm). Acquired through the Lillie P. Bliss Bequest (by exchange). Conservation was made possible by the Bank of America Art Conservation Project

Curator, Ann Temkin: What's remarkable about The Starry Night is the depiction of the sky itself. We have an intensely turbulent, vibrant, excited, agitated night sky. The stars have radiating concentric rings of light. The moon has the same set of rings around it. And also they're set in a sky which is not like the sky that we look up into at night, but one in which the various blues that Van Gogh uses are positioned into these swirling patterns.

And I think one would be able to speculate, rather than being a portrait of what one might see looking up at a night sky in the summer of 1889, it's much more an expression of the turmoil in the artist's own imagination that he's projecting onto that sky.

Chances are you aren't standing in front of this painting alone. You're probably surrounded by quite a few people also looking at it. And I think with this painting, one realizes that part of the reason for its status as such a treasure, and the way it's beloved by so many people, has to do with Van Gogh's way of touching one's emotions.