On the left is the painting by Van Gogh named La nuit étoilée (Starry Night) which hangs in the permanent collection of the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. On the right is the painting by Van Gogh named La nuit étoilée (Starry Night) which hangs in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
From the Musée d’Orsay website:
He first painted a corner of nocturnal sky in Cafe Terrace on the Place du Forum, Arles (Otterlo, Rijksmuseum Kröller-Muller). Next came this view of the Rhône in which he marvellously transcribed the colours he perceived in the dark. Blues prevail: Prussian blue, ultramarine and cobalt. The city gas lights glimmer an intense orange and are reflected in the water. The stars sparkle like gemstones.
A few months later, just after being confined to a mental institution, Van Gogh painted another version of the same subject: Starry Night (New York, MoMA), in which the violence of his troubled psyche is fully expressed. Trees are shaped like flames while the sky and stars whirl in a cosmic vision. The Musée d’Orsay’s Starry Night is more serene, an atmosphere reinforced by the presence of a couple of lovers at the bottom of the canvas.
I’m just mildly miffed that the otherwise extraordinary Doctor Who episode, Vincent, is going to perpetuate this misunderstanding which tends to make some folks who turn up at the Musée d’Orsay disappointed when they don’t see the Starry Night painting that is hanging in New York. They won’t see the Cafe at Arles, either, come to that – because that’s in Amsterdam.
Anyway, I was fortunate enough to see the Musée d’Orsay’s Starry Night when it toured as part of an exhibition of Paris Masters to the Australian National Gallery in Canberra earlier this year. Flat reproductions simply do not do it justice. Seeing it was enough for me to reach tipping point on actively seeking a holiday in NYC sometime – there’s heaps of stuff to see and do there, I know, and I always thought that I’d never turn down a free trip – but the chance to see the MoMA Starry Night is what has pushed me over the edge to planning to actually go there sometime.
Categories: arts & entertainment