|Starry Night Over the Rhone|
Oil on canvas
72.5 x 92.0 cm.
Arles: September, 1888
F 474, JH 1592
Paris: Musee d'Orsay
Vincent van Gogh is deservedly famous for the series of starry sky paintings he produced in Arles in 1888. The four famous starry sky paintings, Starry Night over the Rhone, Starry Night, Café Terrace and Portrait of Eugene Boch, form a series of stark and visually powerful works that celebrate the night sky as much as Van Gogh also celebrated the blazing Provencal sun.
It's a long-held popular misconception that Van Gogh painted his night sky works with lit candles lined up along the brim of his hat. While this is certainly a striking image it is, unfortunately, apocryphal. As Van Gogh states in Letter 543 (below), in fact he used gas lanterns to illuminate his work space while painting at night.
Van Gogh was pleased with his Starry Night over the Rhone painting. He mentioned it more than a half a dozen times in letters to his brother Theo and made likenesses of it in both a letter sketch as well as a drawing.
Enclosed a little sketch of a square size 30 canvas, the starry sky actually painted at night under a gas jet. The sky is greenish-blue, the water royal blue, the ground mauve. The town is blue and violet, the gas is yellow and the reflections are russet-gold down to greenish-bronze. On the blue-green expanse of sky the Great Bear sparkles green and pink, its discreet pallor contrasts with the harsh gold of the gas. Two colourful little figures of lovers in the foreground.
Vincent's brother, Theo, was no less enthusiastic about Starry Night over the Rhone. He wrote to Vincent about it in three separate letters (below) and deemed it powerful enough to include in the Indépendents exhibition along with Irises.
Some days ago I got your consignment, which is very important; there are superb things in it. Everything arrived in good condition and without any damage. The cradle, the portrait of Roulin, the little sower with the tree, the baby, the starry night, the sunflowers and the chair with the pipe and tobacco pouch are the ones I prefer so far.
I have been absolutely unable to write you sooner, for the heat has been overwhelming, and I felt so weak that everything made me feel extremely tired. Now I have almost recovered from it--for good, I hope. I thank you for your letters and the fine drawings you sent me. The hospital at Arles is very remarkable, the butterfly and the branch of the eglantine are very beautiful too; simple in colour and very beautifully drawn. The last drawings give the impression of having been made in a fury, and are a bit removed from nature. I shall understand them better when I have seen one of these subjects in painting. I have invited quite a number of people to see your pictures, the Pissarros, Father Tangui, Verenskiold1, a Norwegian who has a lot of talent and who got the medal of honour in his country's section at the Universal Exhibition at Maus's.
Now I still have to tell you that the exhibition of the Independents is open, and that your two pictures are there, the "Irises" and "The Starlit Night." The latter is hung badly, for one cannot put oneself at a sufficient distance, as the room is very narrow, but the other one makes an extremely good showing.
The location of the specific subject of this Van Gogh painting is very similar today compared to how it appeared in 1888. Of course modern conveniences are much in evidence, but remarkably little has changed with the distinctive shore line, the Trinquetaille bridge in the background and at night the Ursa Major constellation can still be seen reflected in the waters of the Rhone just as it was in Van Gogh's day.
1. Erik Theodor Werenskiold (11 February 1855 – 23 November 1938), a Norwegian painter and illustrator.
|Johanna van Gogh-Bonger||Amsterdam||Netherlands||
|Johan Theodoor Uiterwijk (Arts and Crafts Art Gallery)||The Hague||Netherlands||April, 1899|
|Buffa Art Gallery||Amsterdam||Netherlands||20 June 1922|
|Year||City||Country||Venue||Exhibition Name||Start Date||End Date||No.|
|1889||Paris||France||Salles de la Sté d'Horticulture||Salon des artistes indépendants||3 September 1889||4 October 1889||272|
|1892||Antwerp||Belgium||Association pour l'art||Kunst van Heden, Art d'Aujourd'hui, 1ère Exposition Annuelle||
|1892||The Hague||Netherlands||Haagsche Kunstkring (Buitenhof)||Werken van Vincent van Gogh||16 May 1892||6 June 1892||15|
|1894||Nijmegen||Netherlands||Societëit De Vereeniging||Schilder- en beeldhouwkunst||20 June 1894||20 July 1894||51|
|1896||Rotterdam||Netherlands||Kunstzalen Oldenzeel||Vincent van Gogh: fransche periode||
|1901||Paris||France||Galerie Bernheim-Jeune||Exposition d'Oeuvres de Vincent van Gogh||15 March 1901||31 March 1901||65|
|1905||Amsterdam||Netherlands||Stedelijk Museum||Tentoonstelling Vincent van Gogh||15 July 1905||1 August 1905||156|
|1927||Paris||France||Galerie Bernheim-Jeune||Vincent van Gogh l'époque française||20 June 1927||2 July 1927||
|1931||Paris||France||Galerie Paul Rosenberg||Oeuvres importantes de grands maitres du dix-neuvième siècle||18 June 1931||21 June 1931||43|
|1934||Paris||France||Galerie des Beaux-Arts||Gauguin, ses amis, l'École de Pont-Aven et l'Academie Julian||
|1936||Paris (1)||France||Bibliotèque Nationale||Cinquantenaire du Symbolisme||
|1937||Paris||France||Les Nouveaux Musées, Quai de Tokyo||La vie et l'oeuvre de Van Gogh||
|1960||Paris (1)||France||Musée Jacquemart-André||Vincent van Gogh 1853-1890||
|2000-01||Amsterdam||Netherlands||Van Gogh Museum||Light! The Industrial Age 1750-1900. Art and Science, Technology and Society||20 October 2000||11 February 2001||
|2001-02||Chicago||United States||Art Institute of Chicago||Van Gogh and Gauguin: The Studio of the South||22 September 2001||13 January 2002||65|
|2002||Sapporo||Japan||Hokkaido Museum of Modern Art||Vincent & Theo van Gogh||5 July 2002||25 August 2002||35|
|2002||Kobe||Japan||Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art||Vincent & Theo van Gogh||7 September 2002||4 November 2002||35|
|2004||Melbourne||Australia||National Gallery of Victoria||The Impressionists: Masterpieces from the Musée d'Orsay||17 June 2004||26 September 2004||
|2006-07||New York||United States||Metropolitan Museum of Art||Cézanne to Picasso: Ambroise Vollard, Patron of the Avant-Garde||14 September 2006||7 January 2007||122|
|2007||Chicago||United States||Art Institute of Chicago||Cézanne to Picasso: Ambroise Vollard, Patron of the Avant-Garde||17 February 2007||12 May 2007||122|
|2007||Paris (1)||France||Musée dOrsay||Cézanne to Picasso: Ambroise Vollard, Patron of the Avant-Garde||19 June 2007||16 September 2007||122|
|2008-09||New York||United States||Museum of Modern Art||Van Gogh at the Colours of the Night||21 September 2008||5 January 2009||31|
|2009||Amsterdam||Netherlands||Van Gogh Museum||Van Gogh at the Colours of the Night||13 February 2009||7 June 2009||49|
|2009-10||Canberra||Australia||National Gallery of Australia||Masterpieces from Paris: Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cézanne anf Beyond. Post-Impressionism from the Musée dOrsay.||2 December 2009||18 April 2010||49|
|2010-11||San Francisco||United States||De Young Museum||Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cézanne and Beyond: Post-Impressionist Masterpieces From the Musée dOrsay||25 September 2010||18 January 2011||
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