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
It was a special exhibition though, so I assumed they had got the works together for this purpose.
Was it? My impression was that it was [meant to be] the everyday permanent Van Gogh exhibition at the Musée d’Orsay. They have 14 major paintings by Van Gogh in their permanent exhibition, and that seemed to be about the number that the Doctor and Amy were looking at.
Hee 🙂 And here *I* was disappointed because I thought there was only one (I’m not particularly well-educated in art things!) and when I went to the Impressionists exhibition in Canberra earlier this year, I’d hoped to see the swirls of night sky…
Ah well. I’m sure I can take a tiny side trip from Austria to Paris sometime while I’m up that way…. 🙂 But I’ll definitely agree about the flatness of reproductions. Having seen that exhibition, I was overcome by the *texture* of van Gogh’s paintings. I know that he was particularly known for colour, and that extraordinary self-portrait, for example, really demonstrates how masterful he was in that regard, but the fact that the Starry Night that was on display there created starlight not only through yellows and golds and whites, but through an accumulation of dark blue and black paint so that the light caught, glinting silver on it… well, I was in awe.
I just kept on wandering back to that painting, over and over again, whenever I saw that there was an ebb in the packed crowd around it. I hadn’t grokked the adoration of van Gogh until I saw Starry Night.
it was [meant to be] the everyday permanent Van Gogh exhibition at the Musée d’Orsay.
Oh, sorry, I thought that with all the pamphlets, also seen on the fridge in the following episode (the fridge of a character notable for his lack of desire to go anywhere), it must be a special exhibition, widely advertised. But maybe not!
It’s widely advertised all right – all year around! It’s one of the major tourist attractions in Paris.
[eta] I wonder if one of the reasons they felt free to take a few liberties is because most of the van Gogh paintings are currently not in their normal spot in the Musée d’Orsay, because they’ve sent them around the world for their Post-impressionist Masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay touring exhibition that went to Canberra, is now in Tokyo and will end in San Francisco in January next year.
“Everywhere we look, the complex magic of nature blazes before our eyes.”
I imagine the director used the MoMA painting because it works so beautifully with that wonderful scene where Amy and The Doctor and Vincent are lying on the grass looking up at the sky, and, as Vincent describes what he sees, the sky becomes the painting that is most familiar. To have it hanging in the (mocked up?) Musée d’Orsay in the closing scene is perfectly reasonable artistic licence, I think, and connects the two scenes quite nicely.
Oh yes, nobody said nitpicks have to be important! It was just one of those little niggles.
The 1889 painting definitely does make more sense in the context of that line, and it is by far the more famous, because the 1888 painting only came to the Paris museum in 1975, well after the 1889 painting in New York was common knowledge as THE Starry Night painting.
I suspect that it also makes the whole story much more accessible to the lucrative US audience for the show.
Oh, I reckon so. From a purely curatorial point of view, I thought the way the paintings were hung was a mediocre arrangement at best (probably ideal for camera tracking though), and that the real Musée d’Orsay would do it much better. Also, Sunflowers off in a little roomlet of its own, but Starry Night not? No way.
That’s just… rubbish. I see no violence, no “flames” and the swirl in the sky looks like really nice clouds.
It seems to me that they just want to find evidence of his “troubled psyche”.
When you do make it to Moma check out the Jackson Pollock, I was never impressed with his work in pics but have sat before it for hours at Moma.
As you mention, the thing you really don’t get about Van Gogh until you see one of his paintings in person is how three-dimensional they are. He practically sculpted in oils. Getting your nose as close to the canvas as the friendly security guard will allow, you can really feel both his genius and his madness more than a two-dimensional print can ever convey.
The other thing that struck me at MoMA was the sheer size, large or small, of some of the works. They’re the same size in dorm room posters, but Dali’s Persistence of Memory is smaller than an A4 page, and the Monet water lily studies are billboard-sized.
I also had the impression it was meant to be a special exhibition (or a regular exhibition with special extras). (Much like how one Sarah Jane episode had the Mona Lisa loaned to a gallery in London, which has got to be way less plausible than this). I can’t be anything but glad you picked that nit though, because I hadn’t seen the Starry Night on the left before, and it’s frelling gorgeous.
One thing I really didn’t expect to get out of this episode was to find Amy and Vincent an unimaginably cute couple (way cuter than Rory, who I rather soured on).
Two things I really did like about it:
One is that Van Gogh’s mental illness was mental illness – not super visions, and not the “super temperment” that allowed him to see the creature. And that for all the wonderful day the Doctor and Amy were able to give him, that wasn’t enough to save him in the end; one great moment doesn’t eliminate depressive or bipolar disorders.
The other is that was way more specific to Van Gogh as a person than the other famous artist episodes have been. The Dickens and Christie episodes had fun with their respective styles, but the individuals themselves were only there for the sake of that fun; nothing about Dickens’s role in the Unquiet Dead or Christie’s role in the Unicorn and the Wasp really required them to be Dickens and Christie – it was just a laugh. In the Shakespeare Code, Shakespeare’s talent was incorporated into the story, but not in such a way as couldn’t be done with any other great playwright. But Vincent and the Doctor didn’t just rely on Van Gogh being a great painter: the low esteem he was held in during his lifetime, his mental illness, his theorised synesthesia providing an idea for why could see things others couldn’t (not just a generalised artistic sensibility or sensitivity); all those were important to the story.
And that for all the wonderful day the Doctor and Amy were able to give him, that wasn’t enough to save him in the end; one great moment doesn’t eliminate depressive or bipolar disorders.
Having the former, it was … good to see it not romanticised or “super-cripped” into some kind of psychic or super sense, nor easily cured by something really nice.
SunlessNick- very well put. Rob and I in a very silly way hoped that he would be ok, but I’m glad they didn’t not shy away from all who he was.
There are points in time that can not be changed
One of my favourite episodes of Dr Who is quite a while. I cried.
More Richard Curtis writing please
I totally didn’t pick up on the paintings being in the wrong place but then i have no idea where they are. I’ve been to Paris and New York and yet to see a real Van Gogh. (I have Starry Night 1889 as a shower curtain…;) I’m not sure it would be just the US market, I’m sure most Aussies and Brits would respond the same to the Starry Night question.
Just watched ” The Pandorica Opens”…interesting…..I say no more.
More Richard Curtis writing please
Seconded. I’ve been a fan of his for ever so long. Although I hadn’t realised he was a Kiwi by birth!