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

Vincent van Gogh The Starry Night Saint Rémy, June 1889

  • MoMA, Floor 5, 501 The Alfred H. Barr, Jr. Galleries

In creating this image of the night sky—dominated by the bright moon at right and Venus at center left—van Gogh heralded modern painting’s new embrace of mood, expression, symbol, and sentiment. Inspired by the view from his window at the Saint-Paul-de-Mausole asylum in Saint-Rémy, in southern France, where the artist spent twelve months in 1889–90 seeking reprieve from his mental illnesses, The Starry Night (made in mid-June) is both an exercise in observation and a clear departure from it. The vision took place at night, yet the painting, among hundreds of artworks van Gogh made that year, was created in several sessions during the day, under entirely different atmospheric conditions. The picturesque village nestled below the hills was based on other views—it could not be seen from his window—and the cypress at left appears much closer than it was. And although certain features of the sky have been reconstructed as observed, the artist altered celestial shapes and added a sense of glow.

Van Gogh assigned an emotional language to night and nature that took them far from their actual appearances. Dominated by vivid blues and yellows applied with gestural verve and immediacy, The Starry Night also demonstrates how inseparable van Gogh’s vision was from the new procedures of painting he had devised, in which color and paint describe a world outside the artwork even as they telegraph their own status as, merely, color and paint.

Publication excerpt from From MoMA Highlights: 375 Works from The Museum of Modern Art, New York (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2019)

"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 Gogh's 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.
Medium
Oil on canvas
Dimensions
29 x 36 1/4" (73.7 x 92.1 cm)
Credit
Acquired through the Lillie P. Bliss Bequest (by exchange)
Object number
472.1941
Department
Painting and Sculpture

Installation views

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This work is included in the Provenance Research Project, which investigates the ownership history of works in MoMA's collection.

June - September 1889, Vincent van Gogh, Saint-Rémy-de-Provence.
September 1889 - January 1891, Theo van Gogh (1857-1891), Paris, acquired from his brother Vincent van Gogh.
January 1891 - December 1900, Johanna (Jo) van Gogh-Bonger, Amsterdam, in trust for her son, Vincent Willem van Gogh, Amsterdam, inherited from Theo van Gogh.
December 1900 - February 1901, Julien Leclercq, Paris, purchased through Jo van Gogh-Bonger.
February 1901 - before July 1905, Claude-Emile Schuffenecker, Paris, acquired by exchange from Julien Leclercq.
By July 1905 - March 1906, Jo van Gogh-Bonger, Amsterdam, reacquired from Claude-Emile Schuffenecker.
[Oldenzeel Gallery, Rotterdam]
1906 - 1938, Georgette P. van Stolk (1867-1963), Rotterdam, purchased from/through Oldenzeel Gallery.
1938 - 1941, Paul Rosenberg Gallery, New York, purchased from Georgette P. van Stolk through Jacob-Baart de la Faille.
1941, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, acquired by exchange from Paul Rosenberg Gallery.

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