Paul Ruffle at Starry Night
The Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh The star V838 Monocerotis The song Vincent

The Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh

The Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh

Dutch, 1853-1890, Saint Rémy, June 1889. Oil on canvas, 73.7 x 92.1 cm.

The Starry Night was completed near the mental asylum of Saint-Rémy, 13 months before Van Gogh's death at the age of 37. Van Gogh painted furiously and The Starry Night vibrates with rockets of burning yellow, while planets gyrate like cartwheels. The hills quake and heave, yet the cosmic gold fireworks that swirl against the blue sky are somehow restful. He wanted to paint a starry night as an example of working from the imagination, which could add to the value of a painting: 'we may succeed in creating a more exciting and comforting nature than we can discern with a single glimpse of reality', he wrote. In a letter to Theo of the same date, Vincent was more explicit about the motif: 'a starry night with cypresses or possibly above a field of ripe wheat'.

'The Starry Night' is in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York,
which has a web page on the painting.

V838 Monocerotis echoes The Starry Night

V838 Monocerotis (V838 Mon)

This image resembling Van Gogh's painting, The Starry Night (see below), is the Hubble Space Telescope's view of an expanding halo of light around a distant star, named V838 Monocerotis. This HST image was obtained with the Advanced Camera for Surveys on February 8, 2004. The illumination of interstellar dust comes from the red supergiant star at the middle of the image, which gave off a flashbulb-like pulse of light two years before. V838 Mon is located about 20,000 light-years away from Earth in the direction of the constellation Monoceros, placing the star at the outer edge of our Milky Way galaxy.

Image: NASA, the Hubble Heritage Team (AURA/STScI) and ESA.
More images and information at the Hubble Site

The song Vincent
by Don McLean

Don McLean wrote "Vincent" in 1971 after reading a book about the life of Van Gogh. In the 1970s, the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam played the song daily and a copy of the sheet music, together with a set of Van Gogh's paint brushes, is buried in a time capsule beneath the museum.

Starry, starry night.
Paint your palette blue and grey,
Look out on a summer's day,
With eyes that know the darkness in my soul.
Shadows on the hills,
Sketch the trees and the daffodils,
Catch the breeze and the winter chills,
In colors on the snowy linen land.

Now I understand what you tried to say to me,
How you suffered for your sanity,
How you tried to set them free.
They would not listen, they did not know how.
Perhaps they'll listen now.

Starry, starry night.
Flaming flowers that brightly blaze,
Swirling clouds in violet haze,
Reflect in Vincent's eyes of china blue.
Colors changing hue, morning field of amber grain,
Weathered faces lined in pain,
Are soothed beneath the artist's loving hand.

Now I understand what you tried to say to me,
How you suffered for your sanity,
How you tried to set them free.
They would not listen, they did not know how.
Perhaps they'll listen now.

For they could not love you,
But still your love was true.
And when no hope was left in sight
On that starry, starry night,
You took your life, as lovers often do.
But I could have told you, Vincent,
This world was never meant for one
As beautiful as you.

Starry, starry night.
Portraits hung in empty halls,
Frameless head on nameless walls,
With eyes that watch the world and can't forget.
Like the strangers that you've met,
The ragged men in the ragged clothes,
The silver thorn of bloody rose,
Lie crushed and broken on the virgin snow.

Now I think I know what you tried to say to me,
How you suffered for your sanity,
How you tried to set them free.
They would not listen, they're not listening still.
Perhaps they never will...

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