ACRYLIC ON CANVAS
'Starry Night' (1889) is a powerful painting, one that I think most exudes VanGogh's ability to translate pain into beauty. At the time, VanGogh was self emitted into an asylum. The view from his window was how the 'Starry Night' was inspired. Most of the landscape was embellished as he was unable to see the town and the Cypress trees. He relied on imagination and memory.
It was believed that VanGogh was experiencing episodes of mental epilepsy while working on 'Starry Night'. Mental epilepsy is described as a "seizing up of the mind: a collapse of thought, perception, reason, and emotion that manifested itself entirely in the brain" (Naifeh & Smith 2011, p. 762); "symptoms of the seizures resembled fireworks of electrical impulses in the brain" (Naifeh & Smith 2011, p. 749). Due to his mental condition, when he accessed his imagination, his body became more susceptible to episodes. It was believed that the night he painted the sky, he may have been experiencing one, due to the radiating style of the stars. A year later, 1890, he passed.
It was recorded that VanGogh saw his piece as a failure. He attempted 21 different drawings of his view from the asylum before creating 'Starry Night'. His tenacity, resilience, and inability to see the beauty in his work and find satisfaction in it, makes me imagine beyond this painting to the vision of the landscape in his mind. If 'Starry Night' was a failure to VanGogh, then the landscape that played in his mind must be one that arrests the senses. I wish to see the world through his eyes.
Doctor: "He transformed the pain of his tormented life into ecstatic beauty. Pain is easy to portray, but to use your passion and pain to portray the ecstasy and joy and magnificence of our world, no one had ever done it before."