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Moab UT (at City Hall)
38O34’ N Latitude
109O33’ W Longitude
4048 ft - 1234 m
The Story of Vincent van Gogh’s THE STARRY NIGHT
By Dr. Noelle C. Paulson


Vincent van Gogh painted The Starry Night in 1889 while he was staying in Saint-Paul asylum in Saint-Rémy, France, where he lived for a year following a breakdown and the mutilation of his left ear. Painted with oil on canvas, the artist attempted to capture the view from the window in his room.

for May

(The time of sunrise and sunset assumes a flat horizon. Actual time may vary depending upon the landscape.)

On the inspiration for The Starry Night, Van Gogh said, “This morning I saw the countryside from my window a long time before sunrise, with nothing but the morning star, which looked very big.”

Besides his private room, from which he had a sweeping view of the mountain range of the Alpilles, he was also given a small studio for painting. Since this room did not look out upon the mountains but rather had a view of the asylum’s garden, it is assumed that Van Gogh composed The Starry Night using elements of a few previously completed works still stored in his studio, as well as aspects from imagination and memory.

The curving, swirling lines of hills, mountains, and sky, the brilliantly contrasting blues and yellows, the large, flame-like cypress trees, and the thickly layered brushstrokes of Vincent van Gogh’s The Starry Night are engrained in the minds of many as an expression of the artist’s turbulent state-of-mind. Van Gogh’s canvas is indeed an exceptional work of art, not only in terms of its quality but also within the artist’s oeuvre, since in comparison to favored subjects like irises, sunflowers, or wheat fields, night landscapes are rare. Nevertheless, it is surprising that The Starry Night has become so well known. Van Gogh mentioned it briefly in his letters as a simple “study of night” or “night effect.”

When Starry Night over the Rhône was exhibited at the Salon des Indépendants, an important and influential venue for vanguard artists in Paris, in 1889, Vincent told Theo he hoped that it “might give others the idea of doing night effects better than I do.” The Starry Night, his own subsequent “night effect,” became a foundational image for Expressionism as well as perhaps the most famous painting in Van Gogh’s oeuvre.


May 11 - New Moon at 12:59 pm
May 19 - First Quarter at 1:12 pm
May 26 - Full Moon at 5:13 am

Moab Dark Skies' mission is to promote the appreciation and conservation of Moab's valuable and rare dark skies. Moab Dark Skies was established by the Friends of Arches and Canyonlands Parks in conjunction with the National Park Service and Utah State Parks Division of Natural Resources.

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