Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night at the MoMA

Posted by

[MUSIC PLAYING] NATE: We’re here at the
Museum of Modern Art, one of my favorite art museums. We’re going to get a chance
to see some of the most famous works of art. Let’s get inside
and get started. Follow me. This episode is funded by The
Glick Fund and the Christel DeHaan Family
Foundation, who inspire philanthropy and creativity. We are here with
Larissa Bailiff. Thank you so much for your
time, for coming out here to talk to us about– and
your title here at the MoMA would be? I’m an educator, Nate. And I love educators,
so this is fantastic. So, thanks so much. Talking about this, I mean,
I think I know this painting, right? This is Starry Night, so yeah. So can you tell us a little
bit about just what you know about it? Especially how it got into
the museum and the time frame and– yeah, just let
me know about it. Well, it’s a work from
the late 19th century. It was painted in 1889
by Vincent van Gogh. And we’ll talk more about him. In terms of coming
into the museum, it was a gift from one
of our three founders. And we were founded
by three women. And she gave this to
us, I believe, in 1941. NATE: I mean, where was he
at when he painted this? What was going on? Sure, absolutely. He painted this when he
was in Saint Remy, France. And it’s painted at
the hospital where he put himself to take care
of himself and recuperate. And he had two rooms there. And he could look
outside the windows. He could walk the grounds. And so, it is essentially what
he might have seen looking out one of those windows. But of course, he’s done
many different things to it, combined art
history, his emotions. And that’s what
makes it so special. NATE: Where did he get the
influence of just wanting to do so much with nature? In terms of nature,
that’s something that he loved from the get go. And he talks about
it in his letters to Theo, memories of
walking around and finding different little animals and
studying nature and plants and sketching them
from a very early time. One thing that we get to see
when we’re here is texture. And the other is the
incredible amount of color, which is amazing. Do you know where he got
some of these influences and what pressed him to
want to use so much paint? I think that’s one of the most
amazing things about Vincent van Gogh. Because he tried
on different styles and was exposed to a
lot of art history, but he really settled upon
this– what we kind of call– parallel brushwork. Although there’s nothing
really parallel about it. It’s moving and undulating. But very, very thickly
encrusted, a lot of impasto, a lot of paint on the surface. And it seems to
have been something that allowed him to
really express himself, to really pour himself
into the paint. And that texture, I mean it’s
almost haptic and touchable. And yet, in places, we
can see the bare canvas. So it’s not completely covered. It’s where he’s moved to
paint and express himself. In terms of the colors, I mean,
they’re bright and vibrant. And a lot of that comes
out of just having been in Paris, living with
his brother in 1886 to 1888. He was exposed to
Impressionism and what the new artists were doing and
using vibrant paint colors. One thing that they
were very influenced by were Japanese woodblock prints
with wide swatches of color. And I think that that
comes across in here, that it’s not boring colors. It’s not staid. And it’s not even a
night sky that’s so dark that we can’t see anything. It’s ablaze with blues and
complimentary orange-yellows. And there’s color
all throughout. There’s not just one single
sense of blue, yellow, white. Now, you’ve told
me a little bit– maybe math or science behind
the way the sky looks? Sure. So just to say
this has been such a fascinating and
compelling work of art that all kinds of different
people have analyzed it, from psychologists
to astronomers. And more recently,
mathematicians and people involved in physics
have really begun to think about how
van Gogh may have had his finger on the pulse. The pulse of light,
for instance. And that somehow he was able
to convey or to translate really complicated concepts,
like the concept of turbulence. So we know that
he’s made thousands of paintings and hundreds
and hundreds of sketches. So why is– I mean,
this is iconic. I would argue probably one
of the most popular paintings in the world. Why was it– I mean, he wasn’t popular. He couldn’t sell them. So how did– what changed? What happened? I mean, he only sold one
painting in his lifetime. And that was to a
friend’s sister, who appreciated his work. And people really
misunderstood him. But as you said, he
was extremely prolific, putting his ideas
out there in letters and sketches and paintings. But to why this
is so compelling– and in fact, he didn’t
consider it a masterpiece as we do today. But I think people are drawn
to it for all different kinds of reasons. Partially because we understand
more about his life now and we know that this was
a really difficult time to be in an asylum. A vulnerable time, where
he’s expressing his emotions. But also, the compelling night
sky that fills up almost all of the composition
and draws us in again with this brushwork that
is just and undulating. And so different from what
any painter was creating at the time, when surfaces
were really polished and we were supposed to
understand the meaning and it was clear cut,
a narrative, a story. That’s what you were
supposed to get. Or to understand that it’s
a direct transcript of what you see outside. And he is able to blend– I would say magically
or mystically– this amazing picture for us. Here he is at his lowest
point almost humanly possible, making his greatest work. But is there any kind
of religious connotation with being at church? I don’t know if there’s
any symbolism there. Absolutely. So, you know, there are so many
things going on in this work that we could look
to and think about, in relation to his own
experience and his own life. So he was a very religious
person, felt very spiritual. And we do have a church there. But interestingly, this is not
what a church in Saint Remy would have looked like. In fact, the church that he
would have seen or encountered had a dome. And this has a steeple. And yet, it’s in the center
bottom of the picture, so it has importance there. He puts it in. And many people think that
it’s a memory of the parsonage that his father ran when
van Gogh was growing up. So again, he comes from a
very spiritual background. But he has to interpret
that for himself. Van Gogh, with his love of
nature, came to, I think, believe that there is
spirituality in everything, every blade of grass. And I bring that up
because he’s reading Walt Whitman and
many other writers and poets in many
different languages. But religion is
there, imbued in– or faith, I should say. Spirituality in all aspects of
this, in the beauty of things. Since we’re looking at the stars
and it’s called Starry Night, I just wanted to point close
to particularly this star here, which seems to be one
of the most important for him. And he believed it
was the morning star. We can tell– not from
the naked eye, per se, although if you
look really close, you’ll see a lot of canvas– that he painted the blue
and left blank canvas. And then painted the
bright colors of the star and moved out and out. Wow, yeah. That’s one thing I love
about being at the museum. I mean, I can see the book
and sort of– but now, I could come at this angle and
really see what you’re saying, how he applied the
different layers. Absolutely. Well, thank you so
much for your time. This is amazing, to get a few
glimpses of what this work did. Thanks, Nate. It’s my pleasure and one
of my favorite paintings the Museum of Modern Art. NATE: Click on the right to get
yourself some more Artrageous episodes. And click on the left and
the circle icon to subscribe. And please, I would
love to connect with you on Instagram, Facebook,
Twitter at Artrageousnate. Hey, everybody. Have a great day
and be Artrageous.


  1. Everytime I hear about Van Gogh I get a bittersweet feeling. It's great nowadays lots of people enjoys his art but I can't even begin to imagine all the suffering he lived.

  2. Nate knows art (and this work in particular) far more than he lets on. The contrast between his tone and actual questions is distracting. It's okay to make statements, rather than simply asking obviously leading questions.

  3. Hi Nate. Starry night is my most favorite painting and i love to go to the museum of modern art. I would like to ask, if its the real painting or just a replica of it? I am surprised that it is displayed just like an ordinary painting. This is Van Gogh's most beautiful and important work and I believe it deserves to be treated really special like want they did with the mona lisa painting. thank you.

  4. Van Gogh's paintings now sell for 75 million USD or more. What I am wondering is if always the real paintings are hanging in the museums, or just well crafted copies. Personally I'm not sure the real stuff is on the wall. And in the case, such a small one, piece of cake to copy ….

  5. I like the way she talks about art. A lot of art experts sound so pretentious talking about art, but she just sounds down to earth.

  6. Most people think he only sold 1 painting in his lifetime but that's really not true.

    It is NOT  Vincent van GO !!! Please learn to pronounce it correctly. There are many postings on it.  I live near the Kroller Muller Museum which houses hundreds of van Gogh's, and see van Goghs on a weekly/monthly basis. The American pronunciation of his name is like a disease. IF you claim to be a van Gogh expert, please start at the beginning with saying his name correctly. I am English born, and it is not impossible to say.     Brian Fenwick, Oosterbeek, Netherlands

  8. She did the greatest commentary on this artist ever…especially so, because she corrected herself from saying Vincent had religion in every brush stroke, to "faith & spirituality"
    …an infinite degree of distinction in that!!!!!!!

    Primitive people put their spirituality in all that they do, as did Vincent, while modern man tends to compartmentalize & separate the spiritual from the physical, so to speak. Vincents joy & personal torment is all in his work…bittersweet to view when you know his life (as another commenter expressed)

    Stand before his originals, and you can feel the man, sweat & joy, tears and jubilation all!!!!!

  9. As absinthe, the drink, was over used in those days and in France, one has to understand what effects that had on the arts. ( Usage was even higher in those areas inhabited by artist in the areas they lived in). Knowing, or better said that once revealed, the viewer can understand the relationship that drugs and art have upon each other. We today in the heroin world mind set, see the contributions of artistic works world wide. VVG usage of absinthe, reveals what the mind renders with saturated yellows and greens. Little wonder he took his own life shortly after these works. Drugs have been the "secret" of many craft ventures and it seems it leads to appalling end results for the art creators. Even the drugs used over in all times ( both old world and new) led to accidental "trips" that resulted in higher art claims and untimely deaths. Treatments for syphilis gave in many cases the same results as drinking absinthe. Technical aspects of the arts allow those who want or need to push those limits even further along with no consequences for themselves. Hence over usage and/or over dosing continues to this day in the realms of art and the need to go further out. The art critic is no better than the Roman watcher in the Games in first century onward. Both crave what they know is gory but pleasing in its artistic presentation. Mankind wishes to see what humanity can produce at its very limits. Its what makes the Masters different from the main.

  10. I'm here because of the new Van Gogh movie- Loving Vincent [Loving Vincent ]
    Great movie. If you haven't seen it, check it out. It's the first movie ever to be shown painted. Visuals are mega dope…
    Yts has the torrent :

  11. A bit addition to this art from my perspective view it almost seems as if the artist was looking out from a lens of a baby coming out of a wobm the way that the sky is showing the movement of his brush as if they were ripples that are visible more as energy fealds around the objects of light in this case the objects appear to be stars in the night sky. What is interesting to me about this art peac it is also that contrast between the idea of the art taking a look from it being seen as the vision of a new born child and a man that was living in his final hours of life. Thank you for sharing his work.

  12. What a wonderful video about one of my fave paintings ever! This is rapidly becoming my fave art channel on YouTube! Thank you for all the hard work!

  13. Americans, please try and pronounce his name properly.. it's not Van's Van Gogh, it is hard to pronounce but at least TRY! ><

  14. Last month I went to the MET and the MoMA and literally cried while contemplating his self portrait and the starry night. It was a special moment I will never forget. Love Vincent artworks!

  15. Thanks for the video. No disrespect, but it could have been better if the picture was centre stage, or at least a bit more in view instead of being the background for you guys.

  16. I saw this in New York in 1973, mainly because of the Don Mclean song!! I went back several times and tried to take it all in!! In my opinion its a very hurried work and I would bet he did it in one day if not an afternoon!! This does not take away from it!! Very haunting!!

  17. I don’t get it. I don’t get Picasso either. I’ve seen paintings that were amazing works (Rembrandt comes to mind) that make Van Gogh and Picasso look like kindergarten finger paintings.

  18. The monet painting, at 3;15 is a nice work no doubt but a bad example of the sort of art van gogh may have been influenced, simply because it was painted 26 years after his dead!

  19. Why are astrologist and others trying to analyze his stuff. Just enjoy it for what it is. He also believed in God and struggled with eternity, he was not some spiritualist nut like some crack pots like to say nowadays. Look at his painting church at auvers.

  20. many people when describing this painting do not mention the fact that the village and church were from his head/heart as he could noy even see the village from his eatern facing window and the steeple that he painted is not the one from the neartby village it is a likeness of the type of steeple from his homeland of the Netherlands it actually is close to the one from his hometown and the fact that there were bars on his window blocking a bit of his view, but thanks for spending the time on my fav. masters' work

  21. hello! i made and embroidered a tutu inspired by starry night! It's my most recent video and I would really, really appreciate any love X

  22. Wish you would have had at least on full on frontal view. That woman was always in the way. Bad placement. Loved it otherwise!

  23. I was fortunate enough to see this in person but I am not sure if it is the real piece , because I saw so many people getting close to it even some people walk around with beverages in their hands , shouldnt it be more secured?

  24. Larissa B. did a great job explaining the painting. Kudos. I also just learned that Van Gogh spoke four languages. I knew there was more to him than meets the eye–and ear.

  25. Love the vid, but just wanted to ask: why do you pronounce Van Gogh's name like that? It doesn't even come close to how it should be pronounced. I do know the correct pronunciation sounds a bit weird, but saying 'Van Go' and leaving it like that is just disrespectful in my opinion. I know this channel is not about linguistics, but still… I expected better. That being said, I do wish to congratulate you on the high quality of your videos, keep it up!

  26. You can see the Postman Roulin on the far wall, looking over her shoulder at Nate, saying to himself, your standing three feet from what is universally considered one of the worlds greatest works of art, is this the best you have to ask? The Google machine can be used for so much more than, just looking up the address and hours of the museum.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *