A Comparison of Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh and Anne Sexton
Vincent van Gogh is one of the most famous artists of all time. He completed many paintings that have become world-renown, even by the average layman. According to one critic, Van Gogh was filled with lonely feelings and endless creative energy. He wasnt a successful artist during his life. He only sold one painting and depended on his brother for support. In 1889, van Gogh completed Starry Night, which displays how his troubled spirit and brilliant mind revealed themselves in his painting. P. Pettingell explains that Anne Sexton became a poet as a result of her deteriorating mental state. Her husband was often away on business and she was confused about her role as a mother. When she had a mental breakdown, she was diagnosed as a hysteric and was admitted into a hospital. Her psychologist urged her to write verses about her feelings and experiences. Sextons poem, Starry Night, is her reaction after studying van Goghs painting of the same title.
The artwork inspired her to write this poem and to express in words what she saw in the painting. When comparing van Goghs Starry Night to Sextons Starry Night, | notice that the poem and the painting are similar in many ways. Anne Sexton begins her poem by saying, The town does not exist. When looking at the painting, the town is one thing that is does not catch the eye immediately. It could be overlooked easily because in proportion to the sky and the large dark tree, the town is quite small. Sexton describes the town as silent. Van Gogh painted the town to be so. He wanted the attention of the viewer to be drawn to other points. Perhaps the insignificancy of the town reflects van Goghs thoughts on how the world viewed him. He might have felt inferior to all other people who were shown as the stars in the painting. When Sexton moves her analysis up to the sky, her descriptions become more vivid. She says, It moves. They are all alive.
The strokes of van Goghs brush are clearly expressing movement. The stars seem to be swirling throughout the atmosphere. think this was the idea that van Gogh had in mind when he painted the sky. He wanted the stars to appear as though they were in movement also notice many differences in the poem and the painting. Sexton sees the large dark tree in the foreground of the painting as where one black-haired tree slips up like a drowned woman into the hot sky. Before Anne Sexton began her poem, she included a quote by Vincent van Gogh. That does not keep me from having a terrible need of shall say the word religion. Then I go out at night to paint the stars. do not think that van Gogh painted the tree to be a drowning woman, but instead as a way to join the land and the sky and perhaps to connect him further to religion. The church steeple might also act as a connection between the land and the heavens. In line 10, Sexton writes, The old unseen serpent swallows up the stars. Sexton might be referring to the visible line separating the hillside from the sky. do not think van Gogh painted the horizon to appear as a serpent, but merely to show the evident boundary he felt between himself and religion. Many people first notice the large swirls in the sky. Anne Sexton saw the swirls as a rushing beast of the night and a great dragon.
Do not think van Gogh painted the swirls in the sky as a dragon, think he painted the sky directly as he saw it. Perhaps the sky seemed to be unstable and wild because he couldnt find the religion he felt he needed. The poem seems to have an overall effect of negativity and darkness. do not think that van Goghs painting conveys the same idea. The painting shows the sky as the main focal point, which is not typical. Most people are more concerned with the occurrences of a town, which is usually more interesting than the stars in the sky. Van Gogh does not see it this way though. The sky is more interesting to him. In the Starry Night, van Gogh tried to tell us not only what he saw on that night in 1889 but also how the moment made him feel. (Halls) Both Vincent van Gogh and Anne Sexton had emotional and mental problems. In both cases, its as if their problems fueled their work and made them more intense artists. Some people might see these two as weak people with problems. They overcame their weaknesses in order to do what they really loved, and for that, see them as incredibly strong.