HomeArtistsStarry Night Over the Rhône (1888) by Vincent Van Gogh



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Starry Night Over the Rhône (1888) by Vincent Van Gogh

10 Facts that You Don’t Know About the Masterpiece

1) “Starry Night Over the Rhone” was part of the 1889 Society des Independents exhibition in Paris, and was one of only a few Van Gogh artworks shown publicly prior to his death.

2) Van Gogh completed the painting in September 1888 while in Arles but before entering the mental asylum at Saint-Remy where he would paint Starry Night.

3) Unlike Starry Night and Café Terrace at Night, “Starry Night Over the Rhone” was inaccurate in its placement of the Big Bear constellation in the heavens.

4) The gas lights and their reflections in the river were a relatively new phenomenon in Arles. Paris itself had only been lit at night since around 1853.

5) The thick brush strokes and texture in the painting were described by critic Georges Lecomte, a contemporary of Van Gogh, as a “ferocious impasto.”

6) “Starry Night Over the Rhone” remained with private owners in the Netherlands until 1922 when the Buffa Gallery of Amsterdam acquired it. Since 1975, it has resided at the Musee d’Orsay in Paris.

7) The places where Van Gogh set up his easel to do his plein air paintings are now part of the Van Gogh Tour in Arles.

River Bank Where Van Gogh set up his Easel
River Bank Where Van Gogh set up his Easel

8) In 2015, Van Gogh’s “Starry Night Over the Rhone” was displayed beside contemporary Edvard Munch’s “Starry Night”. Both feature a night sky and a pair of lovers, but stylistically, they are quite different.

9) Through his use of the complementary colors blue and yellow in “Starry Night Over the Rhone”, Van Gogh heightens the brightness of the lights, suggesting their harshness in the natural landscape.

10) The blue and yellow hues in the painting also complement each other in terms of temperature. By juxtaposing yellow against blue, Van Gogh adeptly conveys how the heat of the lights burns upon the cold water.

Starry Night Over the Rhône, one of Van Gogh's best-known paintings: a pair of lovers walks in the foreground with an illuminated sky and waterline in the background.

What makes this painting famous?

When people refer to “Starry Night”, they usually mean the first painting on this list – but they could very well be talking about “Starry Night Over the Rhône” instead. Similarly striking in its depiction of a night sky (though sporting fewer spirals), this painting gives a slightly more peaceful sensation than its counterpart, but features the classic colour palette Van Gogh would become known for.

What’s the background story?

Van Gogh seems to have been particularly enchanted by the night sky, and the gas lighting visible across the water in Arles. He was excited enough about the painting to include a sketch of it to his friend, the painter Eugène Boch, and the work was publicly exhibited in 1889 at the Société des Artistes Indépendants in Paris.

He also described the painting in almost loving detail in one of the many letters he wrote to his brother Theo, describing it as “…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.”

Where is Starry Night Over the Rhône?

Musée d’Orsay, Paris.

Source: https://www.vincentvangogh.org