The rim of our own Milky Way starwheel runs across the sky like a
shining river of light. This Milky-white sky-river was described with
a painter's eye by Vincent van Gogh in a letter to his brother
One night I went for a walk by the sea along the empty
shore. It was not gay, but neither was it sad--it was--beautiful.
The deep blue sky was flecked with clouds of a blue deeper than
the fundamental blue of intense cobalt, and others of a clearer
blue, like the blue whiteness of the Milky Way. In the blue depth
the stars were sparkling--greenish, yellow, white, rose--brighter;
flashing more like jewels than they do at home . . . opals you
might call them; emeralds, lapis, rubies, sapphires.
- What correspondences do you see between the verbal description
just quoted and the visual expression (the painting above)?
- Compare the paint-strokes Van Gogh used to paint the stars and
heavenly lights with the way he painted the village lights. Would
you have painted the village lights the way he did?
- Look closely at the Moon.
- What is unusual about his portrait of the moon?
- What phase is
his moon in?
- Why might Van Gogh have represented the Moon this way?
- Hint: Once you understand the phases of the moon, read
- What do you think is depicted by the glow of yellowish light
above the horizon?
- Find two silver swirls of paint in the middle of the picture.
What might they represent?
- Remember some starry night when you observed the sky. Observe
the textures and brush-strokes of Van Gogh's painting technique.
How does this painting make you feel about your experience of