Monday, June 30, 2008

The Enigma of "The Starry Night"

Van Gogh painted one of his most famous paintings, “The Starry Night,” just over a year before he died. He was interested in night long before that, though. The curator of a current show of his work has found that he hand-copied pages of night descriptions, both scientific and poetic, into his journals. In novels, he often sought out passages concerned with the night for special notes. He wrote to friends such as Gauguin and Bernard about his ideas about night, and sketched drawings on his letters. Curator Pissarro found he also owned books concentrating on the theme of night, like “What the moon saw” by Hans Christian Anderson. It’s interesting to me that this curator found the night-theme in Van Gogh’s work so many years after his death, when no one else had particularly noticed it. What might we be focusing on that no one would note until long afterward?