The meaning behind Starry Night?

Assignment for Art Appreciation Class

What Is the meaning behind one of the most extraordinary paintings of all times? The meaning is that there is pain in beauty and vice versa. Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh was an extremely brave and incredible genius, and sometimes that comes off as being mad or insane. He was an angel in a world of demons; a man out of time and place in a world that did not appreciate him until it was too late.

Vincent Van Gogh was a tortured soul; he sought meaning and solace in a world where he felt meaningless and felt as though he had a pointless existence. I believe that’s why he expressed so much meaning and emotion into his work. He had so much greatness locked away inside his mind that it may have seemed to others, that he was mad, but I believe that it was the struggle to let his love of beauty escape.

There are many ideas of what could have been going through his mind when he created this great masterpiece; I like to think it was a sort of religious endeavor to ease his mind of the suffering he went through while he was in isolation and locked away in a mental institute. It’s said that Gogh always suffered from loneliness and anxiety along with other ailments but I believe that this work comes from a sense of peace he must have felt at looking at the night sky and seeing more than what we mere mortals see. He may have been burdened with a sense of illumination that allowed him to see such beautiful things that perhaps it did drive him a bit mad but that’s understandable.

I like to think when he did Starry Night he was trying to do something religious. He even said that, “Look, I have dreamed another dream. And this time, the sun, the moon and the eleven stars bowed down to me.” Genesis 37:9 This verse is about how Joseph was thrown into a pit by his eleven brothers and left there to die or be sold into slavery. I believe that Van Gogh compared himself to Joseph because he was locked away by his peers. Joseph and Gogh were both dreamers and outcasts. Perhaps when he wrote about how the stars bowed down to him in his dream, he meant that he felt like one-day people would appreciate his worth in life.

Though most people when looking into the night sky would see dark with a few specks of light, Vincent saw more; I believe he saw hope. For a man with so much despair and turmoil, he saw beauty; he saw lights exploding in the dark of night. Starry Night is about movement and flowing energy. The world is not still but constantly alive. One man in the videos we watched said that when he looked at it. It seemed as though the universe was not so far away but all around us. It makes you dream and hope for better things. Van Gogh said that Starry Night was “a great starlit vault of heaven… one can only call God.”

It was sad to find out that he was locked up in an institution when he painted Starry Night; I would have liked to think that he was outside on a field looking up.


*inspired by Doctor Who— episode Vincent and the Doctor


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