When thinking about art and a starry night I’m sure the first artist that pops in your head is Vincent Van Gogh. The Starry Night is one of the most iconic and well known paintings by Van Gogh with its swirling sky and expressive brush strokes. Yet, just a few years after this particular depiction of a starry night we have Edvard Munch’s own creation in his Starry Night. Van Gogh and Munch, while working in two different artistic movements, Van Gogh with Post-Impressionism and Munch with Expressionism, both have some very similar characteristics when it comes to analyzing their styles. Both artists suffered at times from a declining mental health and those emotions have shown themselves through their use of color and brush strokes in their expressive paintings.
In Vincent Van Gogh’s The Starry Night, he actually painted this piece while he was staying in a mental hospital. He uses short and quick brush strokes and a thick use of paint to emphasize the strokes as well as their movement. The sky is filled with swirling energy. It’s lively and even intense as we view the world through Van Gogh’s eyes, all of which fits well when he says, “the sight of the stars makes me dream.” Were these the emotions he was feeling while in the hospital? Was he buzzing with energy or were his thoughts and feelings swirling around inside him? By looking at his painting and taking in its expressive nature, we can understand more of the artist and connect to the emotions.
When looking at Edvard Munch’s Starry Night, visually it is immediately different from that of Van Gogh’s. There are no quick, short, blatantly visible brush strokes or visual pulsating energy, and yet Munch is still expressing emotional content. His colors are a bit more blended yet still decipherable. They’re slightly moody and the brush strokes are all over the place, making this piece overall very expressive. This particular painting is of the coastline at Åsgårdstrand in Oslo, Norway and was also made during the time Munch first fell in love. The relationship was a mixture of love and uncertainty, which may be why we have this cloudy mixture of blues in the sky and yet still there are bright shining stars.
In the end both artists are expressing their depiction of what it means to be alive. Neither painting is a realistic, detailed depiction of a night’s sky. They are instead the expressions of what life is, through the imagery and colors of the natural world. They express the emotions of life, the feelings and moments people experience, and ultimately give us paintings that many people can relate to.