Starry Night over the Rhone (1888)

Starry Night over the Rhone (September 1888) is one of Vincent van Gogh’s paintings of Arles at night. It was painted at a spot on the banks of the river which was only a minute or two’s walk from the Yellow House on the Place Lamartine. The night sky and the effects of light at night provided the subject for some of his more famous paintings, including Cafe Terrace at Night (painted earlier the same month) and the later canvas from Saint-Rémy, The Starry Night.

The challenge of painting at night intrigued Van Gogh. The vantage point he chose for Starry Night over the Rhone allowed him to capture the reflections of the gaslighting in Arles across the glimmering blue water of the Rhône. The sky is illuminated by the constellation Ursa Major (the Great Bear). In the foreground, two lovers stroll by the banks of the river.

Depicting color was of great importance to Van Gogh. In letters to his brother, Theo van Gogh, he often described objects in his paintings in terms of color. His night paintings, including Starry Night over the Rhone, emphasize the importance he placed in capturing the sparkling colors of the night sky and the artificial lighting that was new to this period.

Current Location: Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France