Vincent van Gogh painted “The Starry Night” in 1889, depicting a night skyline over a small hillside village. The painting is dominated by a night sky of chromatic blue swirls, with a glowing yellow crescent moon and stars rendered as radiating orbs. Van Gogh based the painting on both direct observations and his imagination, memories, and emotions.
The swirling forms in the sky correspond to published astronomical observations of dust and gas known as nebulae. To render the night sky in “The Starry Night,” van Gogh used intense blues and yellows, with light greens scattered throughout. The composition emphasizes this subject matter through flowing and circular lines of thick brushstrokes that swirl together.
Van Gogh’s use of bold, thick brushstrokes and vivid colors conveys an intense emotional depth in the painting’s content. Several experts have interpreted this aspect as indicative of spirituality or introspection mirrored in Van Gogh’s letters to his brother at the time he created this work. The painting was created during a period when Van Gogh lived in an asylum with greater freedoms than other patients due to remission from his illness.