The Starry Night
Museum of Modern Art
53rd Street between 5th and 6th Avenues
Natural History special issue
Part of City of Stars photo essay.
A personal favorite, The Starry Night is, perhaps, the world’s most famous painting with a cosmic theme. Vincent van Gogh, the nineteenth-century Dutch impressionist, painted it while visiting the south of France. The stars, painted as yellow-white blobs, appear to undulate. The thin crescent Moon is almost a caricature, with its illuminated cusps almost meeting around back. It, too, appears to undulate against the dark blue sky. The painting feels as though its sky is a living, breathing entity.
If van Gogh actually saw the stars and Moon behave this way, assuming he did not suffer from a bad case of astigmatism, then that night must go down in the annals of astronomy as the worst clear-weather atmospheric disturbance ever recorded.
Much of The Starry Night’s recent fame derives from its appearance in the 1972 hit single “Vincent,” by Don McLean.