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

Vincent van Gogh

The Starry Night

Saint Rémy, June 1889

Medium
Oil on canvas
Dimensions
29 x 36 1/4" (73.7 x 92.1 cm)
Credit
Acquired through the Lillie P. Bliss Bequest
Object number
472.1941
Department
Painting and Sculpture
This work is on view on Floor 5, in a Collection Gallery, with 19 other works online.
Vincent van Gogh has 6 works online.
There are 2,308 paintings online.

"This morning I saw the country from my window a long time before sunrise, with nothing but the morning star, which looked very big," van Gogh wrote to his brother Theo, from France. Rooted in imagination and memory, The Starry Night embodies an inner, subjective expression of van Goghs response to nature. In thick, sweeping brushstrokes, a flamelike cypress unites the churning sky and the quiet village below. The village was partly invented, and the church spire evokes van Gogh's native land, the Netherlands.

Gallery label from 2011

Van Gogh's night sky is a field of roiling energy. Below the exploding stars, the village is a place of quiet order. Connecting earth and sky is the flamelike cypress, a tree traditionally associated with graveyards and mourning. But death was not ominous for van Gogh. "Looking at the stars always makes me dream," he said, "Why, I ask myself, shouldn't the shining dots of the sky be as accessible as the black dots on the map of France? Just as we take the train to get to Tarascon or Rouen, we take death to reach a star."

The artist wrote of his experience to his brother Theo: "This morning I saw the country from my window a long time before sunrise, with nothing but the morning star, which looked very big." This morning star, or Venus, may be the large white star just left of center in The Starry Night. The hamlet, on the other hand, is invented, and the church spire evokes van Gogh's native land, the Netherlands. The painting, like its daytime companion, The Olive Trees, is rooted in imagination and memory. Leaving behind the Impressionist doctrine of truth to nature in favor of restless feeling and intense color, as in this highly charged picture, van Gogh made his work a touchstone for all subsequent Expressionist painting.

Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, revised 2004, originally published 1999, p. 35

This work is included in the Provenance Research Project, which investigates the ownership history of works in MoMA's collection.
Theo van Gogh (1857–1891), Paris. 1889 – 1891
Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, Amsterdam (Theo van Gogh’s widow), Amsterdam. 1891 – 1900
Julien Leclercq, Paris. Purchased from Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, 1900 – February 1901
Claude-Emile Schuffenecker, Paris. Acquired from Julien Leclercq by exchange, February 1901
Mme Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, Amsterdam (Theo van Gogh’s widow), Amsterdam. Acquired from Schuffenecker, [after February 1901] - 1906
Oldenzeel Gallery, Rotterdam. Purchased from Jo van Gogh-Bonger, 1906
Miss Georgette P. van Stolk, Rotterdam. Purchased from Oldenzeel Gallery, 1906 – 1938
Paul Rosenberg Gallery, New York. Purchased (through J. Baart de la Faille, author of 1928 Van Gogh catalogue raisonné) from van Stolk [estate?], 1938 - 1941
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Acquired from Paul Rosenberg Gallery, 1941

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