I chose to write about Van Gogh’s Starry Night, because I think that this painting is one of the greater pioneer forms of abstract art. Van Gogh’s rendering of the world the way that he perceived it, blended with his own stigmatic emotion, is evidenced by his abstract depiction of this small village in the south of France; Starry Night is aesthetically, artistically, and technically unique.
Starry night is a depiction of an actual village that Van Gogh visited during his lifetime. At the risk of merely defining the obvious, the fact that this is a depiction of an actual village evidences the portrayal of real, naturally occurring forms within his painting – forms that any person who has observed this painting, can attest are definitely a distorted rendition. The distortion of these forms is a demonstration of the type of art that would be later defined as abstract.
Abstract – Descriptive of art in which the forms of the visual world are purposefully simplified, fragmented, or otherwise distorted Having said that, one of the first distinct feature representations of abstraction in this painting that I noticed was the peculiar way that Van Gogh painted the stars – Van Gogh’s stars are exaggerated to the point that their size is almost equitant to most conventional depictions of our sun; this is an obvious demonstration of his use of forms of the visual world which he purposefully distorted (perhaps to signify the residence of spirits on each star).
The second, most striking demonstration of the use of abstraction in this painting is Van Gogh’s simplification of the form of the elements of the scene – the stars, buildings, the mountains, the trees, etc. Van Gogh’s signature stylistic use of brush strokes is extremely simple. Consequently, nothing in the depiction of this small village is given much detail. In lieu of rendering a painting which attempts to replicate the exact detail of the village as he once perceived it, Van Gogh purposely exchanges detail for the exaggerated use of color and shape in order to capture the essence of the scene as he felt it.
In your lecture regarding abstract art, you mentioned that one of the identifying features of abstract art is the artist’s simplification of the subject to its essence. I think that this painting is a perfect example of an artist simplifying the subject this way. The essence of the scene, its beauty and inspiration, is portrayed through Van Gogh’s simple yet emotionally charged depiction of this Starry Night.