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

Vincent van Gogh The Starry Night Saint Rémy, June 1889

  • Not on view

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 MoMA Highlights: 375 Works from The Museum of Modern Art, New York (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2019)
Additional text

Vincent van Gogh produced emotional, visually arresting paintings over the course of a career that lasted only a decade. Nature, and the people living closely to it, first stirred his artistic inclinations and continued to inspire him throughout his short life. But rather than faithfully depicting his surroundings, he painted landscapes altered by his imagination. Van Gogh was seeking respite from plaguing depression at the Saint-Paul asylum in Saint-Rémy in southern France when he painted The Starry Night. It reflects his direct observations of his view of the countryside from his window as well as the memories and emotions this view evoked in him. The steeple of the church, for example, resembles those common in his native Netherlands, while the mountains in the background describe those in his surrounding landscape.

Publication excerpt from Modern Art & Ideas on Coursera
Examine a detailed 3-D model of The Starry Night that gives you a close-up view of the texture of the canvas and the artist’s brushstrokes from various angles.
UNIQLO ArtSpeaks: Sheldon A. Clarke on Vincent van Gogh’s The Starry Night
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
Object number
Painting and Sculpture

Installation views

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Provenance Research Project

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, Paris/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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