5 Facts You Probably Didn't Know About Vincent van Gogh's "Starry Night"

Inspiring a number of songs, poems, and pop culture references, "Starry Night" is arguably the most influential painting in Vincent van Gogh's repertoire. But how much do YOU know about it? Here are some lesser known facts that I found interesting about both the work itself and Van Gogh's life back in 1889, the year it was created. 1. There are eleven stars in the painting's starry sky, and many believe that eleven was a completely intentional number. Growing up, Van Gogh was extremely pious and even had aspirations to dedicate his life to the evangelization of the poor. In Genesis 37:9, the passage reads: "And he dreamed yet another dream, and told it his brethren, and said, Behold, I have dreamed a dream more; and, behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me." Many art historians believe the eleven stars are a subtle nod to that passage. 2. The piece is not the only Starry Night painting that Van Gogh ever created, but in fact, one of many starry skies he painted during a span of 'night studies'. Other popular versions of Van Gogh's 'night studies' include "Starry Night Over The Rhone" and "Cafe Terrace At Night", both painted in Arles roughly a year before "Starry Night" was created. 3. Both Van Gogh and his brother Theo, his closest confidant and an art gallery manager in Paris, did not consider "Starry Night" a masterpiece by any means. Theo was outwardly unimpressed, telling Vincent that he felt he was focusing too much on technical execution and not conveying nearly enough emotion in the work. In a documented letter between the two, Theo wrote, "I clearly sense what preoccupies you in the new canvases like the village in the moonlight, but I feel that the search for style takes away the real sentiment of things." 4. "Starry Night" was painted during Van Gogh's convalescence as a patient at Saint-Paul-de-Mausole, an asylum and clinic for the mentally ill near Saint-Rémy. He was often encouraged to paint there and was even given a small studio space beside his private room. 5. Van Gogh's painting "Olive Trees in a Mountainous Landscape" is highly considered to be something of a 'daytime companion' and complement to "Starry Night". Both of these paintings have been displayed together at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City since 1941 and remained together since their earliest provenance.

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