|Bio||I am a part-time artist and blogger, from the city of Adelaide. I love writing about the struggles of life and harsh realities.|
by Jeannie White
Vincent Van Gogh often spent his days painting the glowing yellow wheat fields, pondering what was beyond the foothills of Les Alpilles and hoping he could find peace at the asylum. He liked to capture the gentle flowing lines of his surroundings, their vibrant colours – to see what unexpectant eyes couldn’t see.
The Impressionist sat next to a window, draped with green curtains, and admired the stars dazzling in the sky. He marvelled at the starry night, wondering when he would finally paint his ambitious scene. He told people to gaze at the heavens and notice their lemony glistening colours, although many were a pink, green or a blue shade . Vincent knew if he embarked on painting this challenging scene, he would not only paint dappled white spots on a black canvas.
He remembered gazing up at Venus after his first arrival at the asylum . Vincent had admired Charles Daubigny and Théodore Rousseau’s starry landscapes, which captured peace and tranquillity, and it inspired him to use me to paint the stars. He held onto me tightly; I could sense his urgency to paint and then Vincent embarked on his starry themed painting. He swirled colours with me almost looking as if gusts of wind were moving amongst the night air. The moon glowed, its bright yellowness reflecting upon the town below. Vincent’s crazed mind found a limited peace as he stared into the night at the luminous stars, which had often hypnotised him as an artist. Together we painted a cobalt blue surrounding the moon, and the array of blues swirled in the sky, soothing Vincent’s need to paint.
He dipped me into the oil paint, and feathered my bristles onto the canvas making the cypress trees towering above the township blend into the starry heavens. He captured their twisting forms as they surged into the night sky, illustrating a link between land and sky.
A church was visible from Vincent’s window, far in the distance, and he added it to the picture, using his memory for the details. He chose to illuminate the windows, making it a homely presence in contrast to the town, which looked ghostly amongst the darkness. But the yellows of the town lights balanced the hues of the golden stars blended across the skies.
Though he was often lonely, when Vincent held me close, loneliness became only a word. The time he spent relaxing with me in his bedroom, conceiving his best paintings, and soothing his restless mind. In this way, tonight was no different from any other night, as each painting offered a moment of peace from the inner torment that Vincent Van Gogh silently suffered. His bedroom overlooked the wheat field , with solid, iron bars against the window. But they never stopped him from painting the beauty in the fields beyond.
The night shared mystery, while the sunrise gleamed through the asylum’s windows each morning, bringing Vincent glory . The days in the asylum were filled with howls and yelling, but each day painting with me brought Vincent a similar joy. He stared out at the stars as if he longed to be dancing in the sky with them, and his desire could be seen in his painting, where the stars danced in a hypnotic gleam.
This starry night was not an ordinary night. It was the night Vincent had finally surrendered to his internal cry to paint the heavens, with the skies blanketed by stars. The night sky seemed dynamic to Vincent, and he moved me in almost turbulent strokes. The swirling line motions reminded Vincent of the sea, recalling his visit to the Mediterranean ocean, but the vibrancy of the stars looked more energetic.
The clock struck three and sleep had filled Vincent’s groggy mind. But his fingers itched a painter’s desire, burning as he held onto my wooden shaft. In the night in the asylum, Vincent heard strange voices and shouting, but he clung onto my wood and kept painting. He put his last few brushstrokes onto his picture, dabbling me against the trees, then held me in the air next to his shoulder, as if he had found his inner peace. Each strange whisper or sound had urged him to paint the moonlit sky, despite his dreams making him feel connected to the stars . He planned to decorate more walls with canvases in the empty rooms of the asylum . Now Vincent had completed this painting, he would soon begin another. He would continue to write to his brother Theo, whom he dearly loved, and tell him about all his paintings. Theo felt compelled to supply Vincent with art tools to fuel his burning desire to paint. I had been sent as a gift too, in parcels from Theo.
Another day would turn into a night and birth another day. But the nights and mornings continued to mesmerise Vincent, and he thought the nights were filled with much life too. Each star was living, as each human did on earth. The cries coming from the asylum were heard by the stars, and at night, those stars communicated with Vincent and told him stories, which he painted. Vincent held onto me, with the completeness of his painting looking back at him. Once again, he gazed out at the stars. It gave him such power to paint the shining objects hanging in the blueness of the sky, as the dark night threatened to sweep them away. He wondered if he would hang his new picture next to his beloved artwork of the sunflowers in the dining room near the chimney, or if he would simply hang it proudly on his own bedroom wall.
His mind continued to wander wildly until finally he put me down and retreated to bed, leaving his letter to Theo for another day. He longed to sip red wine and enjoy its strong, bittersweet taste. But the frightful thoughts that flooded his mind made him avoid wine.
He climbed into bed, with my wooden end and feathery head placed randomly on the bedside table, like a teddy bear. His paints were askew on the floor, ready for the next day. He snuggled into his pillow and became soothed by the warmth of his blankets.
But still, his mind wandered relentlessly. His bizarre connection with the night skies had sparked his illness again. His eyes searched the darkness of the room. The stars beyond the window communicated with him as if they were fallen angels of the night sky, telling him life was merely a mystery. Their mysteriousness shined brightly and beamed their rays into his mind.
For many nights Vincent dreamt of stars, but he feared to paint their beauty. He knew his longing to paint was driven by his insecurities. Those stars finally spoke to him this night and breathed onto the earth, which Vincent captured in yellows, blues and greys. But my wooden stick and bristly end spoke words of wisdom, in a whispery hushed tone. I told him life’s secrets and words of encouragement for his next painting.
But this did not stop his troubled body from twitching as he drifted off to sleep or ease the restlessness he encountered during the night. Tonight, he used us with such tenderness, bonding with us completely. The stars glowed in Vincent’s mind as he drifted off to sleep, hypnotic, demonic, but beautiful.
He would never see the stars the same again or capture their beauty in the same way. It was an encounter with the universe he could never regain. Although I, and my fellows, were merely sticks used for painting, the stars were fragments of his heart, which we helped him capture. Each bristle on my head clumped together in little lumps, ready to be washed. Like the others, I was badly worn, and my life would be over once each last bristle had fallen from my scalp. But my short life would live on in his heart each time he looked at the stars, and after my death I knew he would think of me. Vincent’s mind secretly told him those stars were demons, yet his heart grew with love for the night sky as he fell asleep.
Bailey, Martin. Starry Night, Van Gogh at the Asylum. London: White Lion Publishing, 2018.
Gould Rachel. The Omnivore. “How Did Van Gogh’s Turbulent Mind Depict One of the Most Complex Concepts in Physics?” (blog). Posted October 17, 2017. Accessed 29 May, 2019. .
Leeuw, Ronald. The Letters of Vincent Van Gogh. Translated by Arnold Pomerans. London: The Penguin Press, 1996.