Starry Night Over the Rhône

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Starry Night Over the Rhone)
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Starry Night over the Rhône
French: Nuit étoilée sur le Rhône
Starry Night Over the Rhone.jpg
ArtistVincent van Gogh
MediumOil on canvas
Dimensions72.5 cm × 92 cm (28.5 in × 36.2 in)
LocationMusée d'Orsay, Paris

Starry Night Over the Rhône (September 1888, French: Nuit étoilée sur le Rhône) is one of Vincent van Gogh's paintings of Arles at nighttime. It was painted at a spot 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 his more famous paintings, including Cafe Terrace at Night (painted earlier the same month) and the later canvas from Saint-Rémy, The Starry Night.

A sketch of the painting is included in a letter van Gogh sent to his friend Eugène Boch on October 2, 1888.[1]

Starry Night Over the Rhône, 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 (a waterside street) 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


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.[2]

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.[3] The letter sketches executed at this time probably are based on the original composition.

Colors of the night[edit]

The challenge of painting at night intrigued van Gogh. The vantage point he chose for Starry Night Over the Rhône 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 color was of great importance to Vincent; in letters to his brother, Theo, he often described objects in his paintings in terms of color. His night paintings, including Starry Night Over the Rhône, 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.


  1. ^ Letter to Eugène Boch including a sketch of the Starry Night over the Rhone painting Archived 2012-07-29 at
  2. ^ Letter 543
  3. ^ For a tracing of the original composition see Roland Dorn 1990, ill. p. 388


  • Boime, Albert: Van Gogh's Starry Night: A History of Matter and a Matter of History . Arts Magazine. 59 (4): 86–103. (also available on CD-ROM: ISBN 3-634-23015-0 (German version))
  • Dorn, Roland: Décoration: Vincent van Gogh's Werkreihe für das Gelbe Haus in Arles, Georg Olms Verlag, Hildesheim, Zürich & New York 1990 ISBN 3-487-09098-8 / ISSN 0175-9558

External links[edit]