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Starry Night Over the Rhône

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Starry Night [1]
French: La Nuit étoilée
ArtistVincent van Gogh
MediumOil on canvas
Dimensions72.5 cm × 92 cm (28.5 in × 36.2 in)
LocationMusée d'Orsay, Paris

Starry Night [1] (September 1888, French: La Nuit étoilée), commonly known as Starry Night Over the Rhône, is one of Vincent van Gogh's paintings of Arles at night. It was painted on the bank of the Rhône that was only a one or two-minute walk from the Yellow House on the Place Lamartine, which van Gogh was renting at the time. The night sky and the effects of light at night provided the subject for some of van Gogh's more famous paintings, including Café Terrace at Night (painted earlier the same month) and the June, 1889, canvas from Saint-Remy, The Starry Night.

A sketch of the painting is included in a letter van Gogh sent to his friend Eugène Boch on 2 October 1888.[2]

Starry Night, which is now in the Musée d'Orsay in Paris, was first exhibited in 1889 at Paris' annual exhibition of the Société des Artistes Indépendants. It was shown together with van Gogh's Irises, which was added by Vincent's brother, Theo, although Vincent had proposed including one of his paintings from the public gardens in Arles.

Subject matter[edit]

A similar view of the site, 2008

The view is from the quay on the east side of the Rhône, into the knee of the river towards the western shore: coming down from the north, the Rhône turns to the right at this point to surround the rocks on which Arles is built. From the towers of Saint-Julien and Saint-Trophime at the left, the spectator follows the east bank up to the iron bridge connecting Arles to the suburb of Trinquetaille on the right, western bank. This implies a view from Place Lamartine towards the southwest. 43°40′57″N 4°37′49″E / 43.682367°N 4.630287°E / 43.682367; 4.630287 Though, as noted below this is not consistent with the stars portrayed as the Plough in Ursa Major would not be visible in that direction.


Letter sketch, 2 October 1888, now in the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

Van Gogh announced and described this composition in a letter to his brother Theo:

Included a small sketch of a 30 square canvas - in short the starry sky painted by night, actually under a gas jet. The sky is aquamarine, the water is royal blue, the ground is mauve. The town is blue and purple. The gas is yellow and the reflections are russet gold descending down to green-bronze. On the aquamarine field of the sky the Great Bear is a sparkling green and pink, whose discreet paleness contrasts with the brutal gold of the gas. Two colorful figurines of lovers in the foreground.[3]

In reality, the view depicted in the painting faces away from Ursa Major, which is to the north. The foreground indicates heavy rework, wet-in-wet, as soon as the first state was finished.[4] The letter sketches executed at this time probably are based on the original composition.

Colours of the night[edit]

The challenge of painting at night intrigued van Gogh. The vantage point he chose for Starry Night allowed him to capture the reflections of the gas lighting in Arles across the glimmering blue water of the Rhône. In the foreground, two lovers stroll by the banks of the river.

Depicting colour was of great importance to Vincent; in letters to his brother, Theo, he often described objects in his paintings in terms of colour. His night paintings, including Starry Night, emphasize the importance he placed on capturing the sparkling colors of the night sky and of the artificial lighting that was new to the era.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Musée d'Orsay: Vincent van Gogh Starry Night". Musée d'Orsay. 2007-07-31. Archived from the original on 2021-03-28. Retrieved 2020-09-21.
  2. ^ "Letter to Eugène Boch including a sketch of Starry Night over the Rhone painting". Archived from the original on July 29, 2012.
  3. ^ Letter 543 Archived 2017-12-04 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ For a tracing of the original composition see Roland Dorn 1990, ill. p. 388


External links[edit]