Van Gogh’s career as an artist was short and tragic. He never sold a painting during his lifetime, save one which was bought by his brother. While alive, he was more famous for his remarkable act of cutting off his lower ear lobe and presenting it to a young prostitute than he was for his art. Today, many of his paintings are considered to be masterpieces.
Considering the brief time span of his career as an artist, what is truly remarkable is the vast volume of work he produced, some 2000 drawings and paintings in total. At certain times, such as the period when he painted The Starry Night, the rate at which he was amassing paintings was almost an embarrassment. However, the toll of such an outpouring of creative energy was enormous and Van Gogh died less than a year after painting, The Starry Night.
By the time Van Gogh painted The Starry Night, he had developed a personal style so unique that even a layman could easily recognize his unsigned paintings
A sketch of what would later become the painting The Starry Night, was included in a letter Van Gogh wrote to his brother Theo, with whom he kept a close correspondence all his life. In this sketch, the same little town can be seen as well as the same little stars which appear like tiny suns hanging in the sky. The painting, like most of Van Gogh’s other paintings, was done while he was in Arles, a beautiful, rich burst of color. The stars, which in the sketch are depicted as little circles of white in a black drawing, become shiny and bright, illuminating the painting almost as brightly as the stars in the night sky illuminate the dark. Despite its beauty, the painting does however provoke a slight feeling of foreboding with the swirls of paint like strong gusts of wind and the dark tree in the front left of the painting.