Nighttime is magic, a place of imagination and fantasy, in MoMA's
current exhibition Van Gogh and the Colors of the Night.
The show is
intimate, with letters, drawings and paintings culled to explore
Van Gogh's fascination with the nocturnal. Included is the dark
and familiar Potato Eaters (1885), as well as The Night Café (1988), and
Starry Night over the Rhone(1988). In the seminal work and the
final painting in the show, The Starry Night (1989), Van Gogh
changed the way darkness had ever been painted before--he used rich color
and texture to create a vision of night as a time when excitement
takes over from the daily mundane-an apocalyptic fevered vision.
Van Gogh was influenced by the nocturnal landscapes of
19th century Barbizon school painters Charles Daubigny and Jules
Dupré. Their influence can be seen in the effets de soir that he
took and reinterpreted with bold color and dramatic brushstrokes.
The Starry Night is ablaze with color and texture: bold yellow
stars and spiral nebulae shine in a sky of deep blues that range
from aquamarine to purple. Cypress trees shiver against a wild and
turbulent sky. Geometric village houses reflect these colors back:
the inhabitants may have turned in, but the night is awake with
light and activity. There is calmness on the earth, but all is in
turbulent motion in the sky. It is a landscape of his imagination,
partially invented; the spire is reminiscent of Dutch churches.
Night is now a swirling, almost psychedelic play of shape, texture
Van Gogh wrote to his brother Theo, "This morning
I saw the country from my window a long time before sunrise with
nothing but the morning star . . . ."