Personal Epiphany About Van Gogh’s Starry Night

So the night really does look like:

We don’t see it because of light pollution these days… these days we see a black night punctured by a few stars.

Before the light pollution started to really hit the sky, Van Gogh painted his most famous work, “The Starry Night”:

So the swirls aren’t clouds—they’re clouds of stars, a galaxy or the Milky Way crossing the sky or similar. He painted this scene from memory as well, so there’s an extra layer of interpretation to go through, I suppose… but now I think the painting is quite beautiful.

7 thoughts on “Personal Epiphany About Van Gogh’s Starry Night

  1. I’ve been places where there’s no light pollution, and seen the Milky Way spread out across the sky. (Actually, it looks like I’m going back again in July; I will have to show the kids when I do.)

    Van Gough saw something deeper and more profound than what I saw. To me, it always looks like it’s the night sky through eyes filmed with unshed tears.

    But then, I may be reading too much into it about how his life turned out.

  2. I have seen just little inklings of what a night sky would look like without pollution. It wasn’t the time I was meteorite watching with friends—we were in the middle of cornfields but there was too much light pollution to do anything but dot the sky slightly with more stars. (Indeed, within the limits of even our small town, I saw pretty much only Orion. I think. At least his belt.)

    Out on the island, I see about the same dotting of stars, and we tend to have zoning restrictions to put, like, little metal hats on streetlights to reduce light pollution.

    But once I went deep into the island, which is mostly forest. (And only once.) A few houses are there. And I looked up and holy shit the sky is full of stars! It was like looking up into an alien sky, and it scared me so much I just spent the rest of the evening not looking up at all and drove hell for leather to home, where the sky was not full of spooky points of light.

    I have not been back and the only reason the video does not scare me is because the OMG stars is contained within the confines of my laptop screen.

    When I see the van Gough, I just see… well… kind of an awe. But I am melancholy most of the time, so it’s hard for me to detect “far more sadness than usual” at times.

    • And I looked up and holy shit the sky is full of stars! It was like looking up into an alien sky, and it scared me so much I just spent the rest of the evening not looking up at all

      I’m not the only one?! Thank goodness, lol.

      I was deep in south Texas, 60 miles away from any civilization greater than 100,000 in population. I was silly enough to be excited to see the stars later that night. When the time came, they were so bright, they outshone the campfire. Looking at them, all of them, without the campfire made me feel so infinitesimally small, that I felt sick to my stomach. There were so many, I couldn’t find any points of familiarity like Orion or the dipper, which only made my queasiness worse. On top of that, it was a new moon, so even the dimmest stars could be seen. I rushed back to the fire, but I did find myself peeking back up very often, having to quickly turn back lest I throw up.

  3. You know, I try not to pay attention to what I know about Van Gogh, because I think it is too easy to try and see what we think they saw or felt when he painted this. I just see a world that nobody pays attention to. An entire life cycle that goes unnoticed when our day is over. Solitude that the world offers, and is taken for granted during our sleeping hours. I see this painting and I know exactly what I am going to do with my next attack of insomnia. Light pollution or not, the night is an amazing creature that speaks many truths hidden in the light of day.

    Knowing that he was in an asylum when he painted this, I can see the longing for his memory of night. There is a place where I live, by the river. Between the blackest sky littered with stars, and the fireflies in the bushes, and hovering over the river, there is a gratitude that I can’t express. Perhaps some souls are tortured by the ingratitude of humanity, and the absurdity of our own reasoning and rationale.

  4. When I first laid eyes on this painting years ago I thought ‘awww, a 3rd grader could match that’.
    At that time my life was full with security and many good relationships with friends and family. But-
    a couple of weeks after we buried my last parent, and a mere two days after my oldest brother – a
    Catholic priest no less – tells me I have ‘mental issues’ and that there are places I can go where they’ll
    ‘take care of me the rest of my life’, when in fact he just wants me out of the family homestead so he
    can sell it, I happen to run across your site and Starry Night.
    Talk about epiphany! The hair on the back of my neck stood up when I expanded it to full size!
    Words alone can’t express what all I am feeling right now, at the sight of this great masterpiece…

    • *hugs* Amazing how life can alter how one views things. I hope things will get better for you.

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