Analyzing Vincent Van Gogh's The Starry Night

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About this sample

About this sample


Words: 635 |

Page: 1|

4 min read

Published: Feb 12, 2024

Words: 635|Page: 1|4 min read

Published: Feb 12, 2024

Table of contents

  1. Formal Analysis
  2. Contextualization
  3. Conclusion

Vincent van Gogh's painting, The Starry Night, is a prominent and celebrated work of art that is currently exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Created in 1889, it showcases van Gogh's unique style and imagination. This essay will provide a formal analysis of the artwork, contextualize its creation, and offer the author's opinion on its unique features and meaning.

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Formal Analysis

The Starry Night depicts a night landscape, with the sky, stars, and moon occupying a significant portion of the canvas. The stars appear limitless, the crescent moon resembles the sun, and the cypresses look like flames, while the swirling curls draw the viewer into an abyss. The painting's energy is concentrated on the continuous motion of the sky, created through a juxtaposition of white and yellow colors that create a flickering effect. Its vibrant colors and captivating composition make it visually striking.

The canvas is filled with thick, heavy strokes that give the painting a rich texture. Van Gogh's use of an oily technique in his brushwork adds to the overall value of the artwork. The Starry Night can be categorized as a landscape painting, with its balanced composition featuring diagonal lines. Trees occupy the bottom right, while a bright yellow moon is positioned at the top left. The dominance of the sky over the earth is evident, emphasizing the importance of the upper part. The shapes and elements of the painting are expressed through color and rounded strokes. In contrast, the town, trees, and hills in the lower part of the painting are outlined by separate linear dark forms, creating a sense of depth. Van Gogh's sensitivity to color is evident in the painting, as he believed it had its own language and effects on the viewer.

The Starry Night demonstrates unity in its composition and dynamics. Although various objects such as houses and trees are visible, they overlap each other, blurring their individual boundaries. The scale of objects is altered, with stars and the moon depicted in an exaggerated size. The painting's dynamism effectively captures the artist's emotional experiences, immersing the viewer in the mystery of the sky and the night.


Van Gogh painted The Starry Night during his stay at the Saint-Paul-de-Mausole lunatic asylum in Saint-Remy-de-Provence in 1889. The painting is a blend of van Gogh's direct observations, memories, imagination, and emotions. It was created during a period of remission, when van Gogh requested to return to his studio in Arles. However, due to a petition signed by the city's residents, he was unable to go back. The creation of the painting may have been influenced by the story of Joseph from the Old Testament, according to art historian Meyer Schapiro. Schapiro suggests that The Starry Night is a visionary painting inspired by a religious mood. The eleven stars in the painting could represent a spiritual narrative. The two vortices at the center of the painting symbolize a conflict between unequal competitors, possibly reflecting van Gogh's competitive relationship with his brother Theo or artist Paul Gauguin. The absence of the sun in the painting raises questions about who van Gogh's "sun" represented, whether it be his brother, father, or another significant person. The cypress tree, with its upward-reaching flames, could be an unconscious symbol of van Gogh's aspirations to connect with the limitless space that fuels his creativity while remaining grounded.

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The Starry Night's extraterrestrial nature, with its depiction of a spaceship or rocket in the sky, gives it a childlike quality that sets it apart from other famous works of art. Its vibrant colors and extraordinary features make it exceptional and captivating. The painting's unique qualities continue to intrigue and captivate millions of viewers. While a definitive answer to its meaning may not be found, The Starry Night has the power to leave a lasting impression on anyone who encounters its reproduction.

Image of Dr. Charlotte Jacobson
This essay was reviewed by
Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

Cite this Essay

Analyzing Vincent van Gogh’s The Starry Night. (2024, February 12). GradesFixer. Retrieved February 25, 2024, from
“Analyzing Vincent van Gogh’s The Starry Night.” GradesFixer, 12 Feb. 2024,
Analyzing Vincent van Gogh’s The Starry Night. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 25 Feb. 2024].
Analyzing Vincent van Gogh’s The Starry Night [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2024 Feb 12 [cited 2024 Feb 25]. Available from:
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