Vincent Van Gogh was one of the most prolific letter-writers ever. I highly recommend his Complete Letters (a beautifully-bound collection, I might add) if you’re into reading other people’s letters like me.
In particular, what I enjoy about his letters is how he really poured his heart out about what he was painting, how he was doing it and what he admired in others’ paintings. He was also a voracious reader and often wrote about the books of the time (more on this later).
Starry Night Over the Rhone was painted while Vincent was living in Arles and had a very productive time with some of his most famous paintings – many of which I love and will write about from time to time. The view was only a short walk from his famous Yellow House – read more here.
Here is a bit from a letter he wrote in September 1888 to his sister, Willemien Van Gogh, about how he wanted to create this particular painting:
I definitely want to paint a starry sky now. It often seems to me that the night is even more richly colored than the day, colored in the most intense violets, blues and greens. If you look carefully you’ll see that some stars are lemony, others have a pink, green, forget-me-not blue glow. And without laboring the point, it’s clear that to paint a starry sky it’s not nearly enough to put white spots on blue-black……
Lovely, yes? There are several other letters also to other friends/family about his urge to paint a “starry sky”, but these few lines always get me.