Vincent van Gogh (1853–90) is without a doubt one of the most famous artists of the Western world. The record auction prices achieved for his paintings, fuelled by the desire to own a part of this troubled soul, are now legendary. In a letter to his sister Willemina, Van Gogh wrote: ‘Often it seems to me night is even more richly coloured than day’, something which is evinced in his beautiful night painting Starry Night Over the Rhône (1888).
This was one of three paintings made during the same month that incorporate the night sky and stars as fundamentally symbolic elements. He also painted Café Terrace at Night, and a portrait of his friend Eugène Boch (1855–1941), that was perhaps the most symbolic of the three.
In this, his second night painting, the sky is Prussian blue, ultramarine and cobalt, with sparkling yellow gaslights and stars. Here his stars glow with a luminescence, shining from the dark, blue and velvety night sky. Dotted along the banks of the Rhône houses also radiate a light that reflects in the water and adds to the mysterious atmosphere of the painting.
Inspired by Starlight
The year after painting this Vincent wrote to Theo explaining his fascination with stars, ‘For my part I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream, in the same simple way as I dream about the black dots representing towns and villages on a map. Why I ask myself, should the shining dots in the sky be any less accessible to us than the black dots on the map of France? If we take the train to get to Tarascon or Rouen, then we take death to go to a star.’
Medium: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 72.5 x 92 cm (281⁄2 x 361⁄5 in)
Location: Musée d’Orsay, Paris
If, like Van Gogh, you’re entranced by the stars, why not buy one of our luminescent foiled journals with this stunning image on the cover? It comes as a handy pocket journal, luxurious notebook, or blank sketchbook.
- Starry Night over the Rhône belongs to the Musée d’Orsay – read more about it on their website.
- The Art Gallery of Ontario’s exhibition Mystical Landscapes, which features this very artwork by Van Gogh, runs from October 22, 2016 to January 29, 2017. Find out more here.
- A makeup artist has transformed her face into stunning works of art – including Starry Night over the Rhône. See her creations here.
Check out all of the Top 10 Paintings blog posts!
- Top 10 Paintings | 1 | The Kiss by Gustav Klimt
- Top 10 Paintings | 2 | Composition VII by Wassily Kandinsky
- Top 10 Paintings | 3 | In the Well of the Great Wave of Kanagawa by Katsushika Hokusai
- Top 10 Paintings | 4 | Starry Night Over the Rhône by Vincent Van Gogh
- Top 10 Paintings | 5 | The Scream by Edvard Munch
- Top 10 Paintings | 6 | Fighting Temeraire by J.M.W. Turner
- Top 10 Paintings | 7 | The Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dali
- Top 10 Paintings | 8 | Nighthawks by Edward Hopper
- Top 10 Paintings | 9 | Water Lillies by Claude Monet
- Top 10 Paintings | 10 | Ophelia by Sir John Everett Millais