Home Interior Design Was the Eiffel Tower in Van Gogh’s mind when he painted “The Starry Night”? An art historian believes so

Was the Eiffel Tower in Van Gogh’s mind when he painted “The Starry Night”? An art historian believes so

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The eye tends to linger on the turbulence of the sky in Vincent van Gogh. The starry Night. Scholars latched onto it, investigating its astronomical accuracy (the moon was full, not crescent), speculating whether or not the artist had seen scientific sketches of swirling galaxies (possibly), and how far he projected his inner restlessness (unknowable).

James Hall, an art historian at the University of Southampton, however, set his gaze firmly in the foreground. What should we think, Hall asks, of the towering cypress? Stately conifers are a recurring presence in the prolific series of paintings that van Gogh created during his time in Asylum of Saint-Rémy-de-Provence from 1899 to 1890, but beyond the suggestions of their relationship to death, in the classical Mediterranean tradition, few in-depth analyzes have been made.

Hall’s theory, which is outlined in the April issue of Burlington Magazine, proposes the cypress tree as a natural counterpart to the Eiffel Tower whose unveiling at the 1899 World’s Fair – complete with a spectacle of pyrotechnics, light and of explosions – preceded van Gogh’s painting. within a few weeks.

Hall bases his argument on Van Gogh’s fascination with ancient Egyptian sculpture. The painter was aggrieved by suggestions that the Eiffel Tower, as Hall told Artnet News, “claimed to replace the pyramids.”

Van Gogh reserved special reverence for obelisks and he thought the cypresses were as beautiful and well-proportioned as the obelisks, one of which stood in the nearby town of Arles. “For Van Gogh, cypresses are natural counterparts of obelisks,” Hall said, “and this similarity gives them special status in Van Gogh’s eyes.”

Georges-Félix Garen’s illustration of the Eiffel Tower light show was widely publicized in the 1890s. Photo: Art Images/Heritage Images via Getty Images.

The dominant background of THEtarry night is a bit simpler, according to Hall. The pyrotechnics of stars, clouds and the moon is Van Gogh’s natural equivalent of the Parisian light show, which he read about in The Illustrated World and a letter from his sister-in-law, and probably seen in popularized illustrations.

“There was this amazing light show during the opening ceremony,” Hall said, “the close visual analogy between the illustrations of the opening ceremony fireworks and Starry Night gives me great confidence in the theory.

Fittingly, the Metropolitan Museum of Art is about to hold an exhibition of 40 paintings from the dutch master concentrated on its cypresses, from May 22 to August 27, including Starry Nightwho will leave New York modern Art Museum for the first time in 13 years.

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