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Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh

Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh

Vincent van Gogh, for whom color was the chief symbol of expression, was born in Holland. The son of a pastor, brought up in a religious and cultured atmosphere, Vincent was highly emotional and lacked self-confidence. In Belgium he studied art, determined to give happiness by creating beauty. The works of his early Dutch period are somber-toned, sharply lit, genre paintings. In 1886 he went to Paris to join his brother and began to lighten his very dark palette and to paint in the short brushstrokes of the Impressionists. His nervous temperament made him a difficult companion. During a fit of epilepsy, van Gogh pursued his friend with an open razor and ended up cutting a portion of his ear lobe off. Van Gogh then began to alternate between fits of madness and lucidity and was sent to the asylum in Saint-Remy for treatment. It was there in 1889 that he painted Starry Night.

Questions to Ask

What is the first thing that you see? This is the focal point. The focal point is what first draws your eye, something that stands out. What is the purpose of the old tree stump? It directs your eye into the starry sky. The swirls of the stars bring you back to earth.

What colors to do you see? Did he repeat any colors? Do you think van Gogh's use of repeating colors helps give a visual rhythm to the painting? Think about rhythm in music. The drum beats a repeating sound that helps to give the music rhythm.

Why do you think the painting is called Starry Night? Is this the way the sky looks at night? How would stars look through a powerful telescope? Astronomers have found that the painting is accurate for the location and time of year he created it.

How do you think van Gogh felt when he created the painting? Did the starry sky make him happy? Do you think that his mental condition had anything to do with the way he painted? What do you feel when you look at the painting? Is it peaceful, frightening, and exciting?

Can you see the brush strokes that created the stars, mountains, and tree stump? Is this real or visual texture? Texture is the feel of things.

Activities for the Classroom

Additional Kid Friendly Resources at the AHML are "The Starry Night" by Neil Waldman, and "Vincent van Gogh" by Catherine Nichols.

Play the song 'Starry Starry Night' by Don McLean.

Vincent van Gogh was a post Impressionist artist. He was influenced by the Impressionists because he painted outdoors on site and he studied the effects of light on color. Talk to the students about the Impressionist period. Show them some of Monet's work and talk about similarities and differences.

Using the coloring page templates ask the students to create their own unique starry night painting. Remind them that van Gogh placed complementary colors next to one another. He laid down thick layers of paint and his brushstrokes were vigorous and from strong patterns. He also outlined his figures to make them stand out.

Ask the students to create a drawing of what they would see if they sat in their backyard at night. What would the sky look light? What would be in the background? Who would be there?

Inspired by this painting, have the students use crayons to design a piece of fabric, in Van Gogh's style.

The additional information pdf includes a coloring page of this painting.

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