Starry Night

Vincent van Gogh - Starry night

The potato eaters

Vincent van Gogh - The potato eaters

The sower

Vincent van Gogh - The sower

The night cafe

Vincent van Gogh - The night cafe

Starry Night over the Rhone

Vincent van Gogh - Starry Night over the Rhone

Van Gogh and the Colors of the Night


Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), New York / September 21, 2008 - January 5, 2009

A fascinating exhibition at the MOMA shows Vincent van Gogh's interest for the colors of the night, featuring some of his most famous night landscapes and interior scenes

The exhibition is divided in five parts. "Early landscapes", is the descriptive title of the first of them, exhibiting early works such as "Twilight in Loosduinen" (1883, Centraal Museum, Utrecht) "Toward evening" (1885, Centraal Museum, Utrecht) and also some later works like "Sunset at Montmartre" (1887, van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam)

The second part of the exhibition, "Peasant life", shows van Gogh's obsession with rural life and his use of earth tones to represent landscape and laborers. "The potato eaters" (1885, van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam) is arguably van Gogh's first masterpiece, and his most famous early work. "I wanted to convey the idea that the people eating potatoes by the light of an oil lamp used the same hands with which they take food from the plate to work the land, that they have toiled with their hands (...) that they have earned their food by honest means." The canvas is shown near "The cottage" (1885, van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam), a dark and somewhat depressing representation of the peasant life in Nuenen.

As other painters of his era, van Gogh was fascinated by the Southern light of Provence. This is shown in "Sowers and the wheatfields", the third part of the exhibition. The night has never been as luminous as in works such as the two versions of "The sower" (1888, van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam and Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo)

The fourth part, "Poetry of the night: the town", looks like an ode to nightlife, expressed in interior scenes like "The night cafe" (1888, Yale University Art Gallery) or landscapes such as "The starry night over the Rhône" (1888, Paris, Musée d'Orsay) Unfortunately, the exhibition does not include a masterpiece that combine artificial light with natural night light as "Cafe Terrace at Night", exhibited at the Kröller-Müller Museum in Otterlo, Netherlands.

As a continuation to the previous part, "Poetry of the night: the country" is focused on van Gogh's most important painting, "The starry night" (1889, New York, MOMA), by far the most famous painting in the exhibition. Other notable works are the large "landscape at twilight" (1890, van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam), and one of the few portraits in the exhibition, "Eugène Boch (The poet)" (1888, Paris, Musée d'Orsay)

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