Starry Night Over The Rhone by Vincent van Gogh, Musée d’Orsay, Paris – Analysis – PODCAST


Today we’re visiting the world famous Musée d’Orsay in Paris, France, to take a look at Vincent Van Gogh’s painting “Starry night over the Rhone”. It is a very special piece of art because it is totally different in real life, looking at it with your own eyes, than any reproduction or photograph. Van Gogh’s “Starry night over the Rhone” has a spirit and a powerful energy that absorbs the viewer.

Starry Night Over The Rhone

Dutch Painter: Vincent van Gogh (1853 – 1890)

Van Gogh was born on the 30th March 1853 in Zundert, Netherlands. He died very young, at the age of only 37 (He’s the guy that cut his ear off!). Vincent van Gogh suffered from mental illness and was actually committed (actually self-admitted) to an asylum. “Starry night over the Rhone” was one of his last paintings before we entered the Asylum and was painted in September 1888. The river Rhone flows through the south of France, through the city of Arles. Van Gogh rented a house a short walk from the river and decided to paint the scene.

Starry Night Over The Rhone, Paris

The painting

The painting shows two lovers taking a stroll down a river bank with a beautiful night sky above, which is intensely punctuated with stars as well as electric lighting, a small boat and the town. It’s interesting to note that the electrical lighting, which he captured, was a new invention. The stars themselves are surrounded by Orbs which give a magical quality to the piece. We see the lovers and if you look closely, it seems, as if we can almost see them smiling. It’s charming, yet powerful. The paint is very thickly applied, creating a kind of rhythm within the piece which our eyes can follow. This is a painting you will never forget once viewing it in the flesh. The painting is deeply blue. Prussian blue, ultramarine and cobalt. The yellow refection in the water are captured perfectly.

Starry Night Over The Rhone - Close up stars

The lovers having a nice stroll

Starry Night Over The Rhone - Close up lovers

I took some close up photographs of the painting so we can take a look at some detail and elaborate more in the video above. It’s interesting to note that some critics and art historians suggest that the painting has added dark undertones (possibly when the artist started going “crazy”), suggested by the way that the river is encroaching on the lovers, the boat is almost sinking and the river and sky are one, creating an oppressive energy.

Starry Night Over The Rhone - Close up

When I saw the painting in the flesh I think I understood why this may have been thought to be the case – because they can’t have seen it in the flesh! The painting is clear. The river is very clearly defined. In fact, in my opinion, every part of the painting is extremely well painted and clearly defined. However, this is not the case when looking at reproductions and photographs – that doesn’t actually come across. This is why we must see the art in real life and not take the word of others too seriously or even interpret a photo or reproduction, as though we are looking at the piece itself.

One of a pair and the Musée d’Orsay

Starry Night Over The Rhone,

This painting is one of a pair. The other one “The Starry Night“, which is the New York Museum of Modern Art, is the really famous one, which you may have seen before. This certainly does have a different energy and wildness about it. This is not surprising as he painted it from within his asylum! They are two very different paintings with two totally different energies.

The Musée d’Orsay have placed their painting in the centre of a beautiful room with pride of place. It’s usually packed but if you can return before closing time, you will find an almost empty room to really take a closer look at the detail. This piece is a powerful piece. I’ve seen it 3 times now and I feel that it’s power increases each time. I highly recommend it.

THE LOCATION: Starry Night Over the Rhone by Vincent van Gogh at the Musée d’Orsay

Musée d'Orsay

If you are passing by or looking for interesting things to do in Paris, why not take a look? This is a must!

Musée d’Orsay
62, rue de Lille
75343 Paris

(Entrance: 1, rue de la Légion d’Honneur, 75007 Paris.)

Official opening times and information:

“open from 9.30am to 6pm
daily, except Mondays
late night on Thursdays until 9.45pm
last tickets sold at 5pm (9pm Thursdays)
museum cleared at 5.15pm (9.15pm Thursdays)
group visits, pre-booked only, Tuesday to Saturday, 9.30am to 4pm (Thursdays until 8pm). Closed on Mondays, on 1 May and 25 December”

Nearest Metro and transport: Metro: line 12, to Solférino
RER: line C, to Musée d’Orsay
Bus: 24, 63, 68, 69, 73, 83, 84, 94

Did you enjoy today’s broadcast? See you Wednesday!

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By Anthony King (c)

PHOTOGRAPHS AND TEXT BY ANTHONY KING* (c)

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