Review of Vincent van Gogh's Starry Night
By: David K. Montoya

If anyone reads my art reviews, they may have a misconception that I only know about modern artists and their masterpieces. While I am drawn to Modern Pop Art, there are a plethora of other well–known paintings that I adore. Things need to speak to me on a personal level, for me to become attached to a canvas covered in multi layers of paint—to see it's true meaning. While, you can look at any art and be drawn to the beauty of its imagery (which is perfectly all right), typically a deeper meaning can be found, and gives the creation a depth that should be appreciated. Case in point, is the piece that I will cover today in this review.

Now, while it can be argued that Vincent van Gogh was a modern artist, his masterpiece Starry Night is the marque of Post–Impressionism art. Created in June 19, 1889, the idea came from one night of insomnia where he watched the stars in the sky. He actually wrote to his brother describing the experience, "This morning I saw the countryside from my window a long time before sunrise, with nothing but the morning star, which looked very big."

A little fun tidbit: The window that is mentioned in his letter, is actually from his room in Saint–Paul Asylum in France. Van Gogh would go there to counter against his psychiatric problems and create art.

Starry Night was created on a two and a half by three feet canvas and while there are several eye catching details all is submissive to the moon and the sky as it takes up 75% of the actual painting itself. I have actually debated with others that while many propose that the art was peaceful and calm, I completely disagree and see a metaphor of van Gogh's inner pain and therefore see a picture that depicts a sky of turbulence and agitation with the intense swirling design that appears to flow around the solid stability of the moon like waves in the ocean being divided by a large mass.

Another little fun tidbit: Back in 1985, an art historian from the University of California, Los Angeles studied the painting's composition and matched it with a planetarium recreation of that night in 1889. What was found that van Gogh's Morning Star which is mentioned in another letter to his brother was in fact, the planet Venus.

Returning to my interpretation, while I see the skies as a metaphor for the artist's life with psychiatric health dominating it—I believe what lies beneath, the peaceful village filled with houses that surround a church and a tree which pulls your eye just a bit which appears to be a link to the ground and sky—that resembles fire. Like the sky is another metaphor, underneath it is another metaphor, but for death. To support this theory, can be found in another letter from van Gogh which states: "Why, I say to myself, should the spots of light in the firmament be less accessible to us than the black spots on the map of France? Just as we take the train to go to Tarascon or Rouen, we take death to go to a star."

So in conclusion, Starry Night is not only van Gogh painting the landscape before him, while in an asylum—but it was a deep dark and startling look into his own life which was filled with so much pain, what crawled through his subconscious and he knew what was creeping forward in his mind, calling to him in death. It was one year and ten days after finishing this masterpiece, Vincent van Gogh took his own life. His brother by his side said, Vincent's last words were: "The sadness will last forever."