Thursday, February 5, 2015

Carpe Diem #663, Starry Night (Van Gogh)

!! I publish this episode earlier, because I am in the nightshift !!

Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

First of all I love to thank you all for your positive reactions on the "orphanage-project" by Leslie and I am looking forward to all of your contributions for that project. You can email your contribution to the emailaddress I have given in that CD-Extra episode (2015-5). (

Ok ... let us do some haiku-ing. Today I have chosen for a beautiful painting by my fellow Dutchman Vincent Van Gogh, he was a post-impressionist, but in his paintings the base of impressionism you can see. He had a wonderful eye for little details, as we have as haiku poets. This painting which I have chosen is known as Starry Night.

A while ago I remember that I responded on a theme at Magpie Tales with the same prompt Starry Night (that response you can find HERE at my personal weblog).
And as I was doing research for this episode I ran into a few nice haiku which I love to share here with you all.

one by one
fireflies escape my glass jar...
starry night

The calm midnight sky
Deep in the mind of van gogh
I will sit and stare

(c) John Carter

Another nice haiku written by "Ercan" of Poetry Portfolio, a collective of poets:

In the starry night
Swirling blue clouds in the sky
As the tree rise high


I love to tell you all a little bit more about the history behind this wonderful painting. At that time Van Gogh was institutionalized in  Saint-Paul-de-Mausole lunatic asylum. In that time he painted a lot of paintings.
Although The Starry Night was painted during the day in Van Gogh's ground-floor studio, it would be inaccurate to state that the picture was painted from memory. The view has been identified as the one from his bedroom window, facing east, a view which Van Gogh painted variations of no fewer than twenty-one times, including The Starry Night. "Through the iron-barred window," he wrote to his brother, Theo, around 23 May 1889, "I can see an enclosed square of wheat . . . above which, in the morning, I watch the sun rise in all its glory."
Van Gogh depicted the view at different times of day and under various weather conditions, including sunrise, moonrise, sunshine-filled days, overcast days, windy days, and one day with rain. The hospital staff did not allow Van Gogh to paint in his bedroom, but he was able to make sketches in ink or charcoal on paper, and eventually he would base newer variations on previous versions. The pictorial element uniting all of these paintings is the diagonal line coming in from the right depicting the low rolling hills of the Alpilles mountains. In fifteen of the twenty-one versions, cypress trees are visible beyond the far wall enclosing the wheat field. Van Gogh telescoped the view in six of these paintings, most notably in Wheat Field with Cypresses and The Starry Night, bringing the trees closer to the picture plane.
Starry Night over the Rhone (another painting of this project by Van Gogh)
One of the first paintings of the view was Mountainous Landscape Behind Saint-Rémy, now in Copenhagen, which Van Gogh identified in a letter to his sister Wil from 16 June 1889 as hanging in his studio to dry. Two days later, he wrote to his brother that he had painted "a starry sky." The Starry Night is the only nocturne painting in the series of views from his bedroom window. In early June Vincent wrote to Theo, "This morning I saw the countryside from my window a long time before sunrise with nothing but the morning star, which looked very big." Two scholars working independently of each other have determined that Venus was indeed visible in Provence in the spring of 1889. So the brightest "star" in the painting, just to the viewer's right of the cypress tree, is actually Venus.
The moon is stylized, as astronomical records indicate that the moon was waning gibbous at the time Van Gogh painted the picture. Even if the phase of the moon had been a waning crescent at the time, Van Gogh's moon is not astronomically correct. The one pictorial element that was definitely not visible from Van Gogh's cell is the village, which is based on a sketch made from a hillside above the village of Saint-Rémy.

I love this story and I can almost feel and see the despair in his life, trying to become healthy again after his nervous breakdown (the time in which he cut of his ear) seeking the beauty of the night or the late evening. How lonely he must have felt than ...
This however has given him the strenght and inspiration to paint this gorgeous Starry Night.

from the asylum
he observed the starry night -
seeking for the light

(c) Chèvrefeuille

And now it is up to you my dear Haijin. This episode is open for your submissions tonight at 7.00 PM (CET) and it will remain open until February 8th at noon (CET). I will (try to) publish our next episode, a new episode of our Time Machine feature, Blue, later on. For now ... have fun, be inspired and share.


  1. Thank you for the interesting post on Van Gogh. Fascinating character and artist. I agree he must have felt very alienated in the asylum. There is a feeling of this in Starry Night.Tragic to think he only sold one painting in his life time. I have enjoyed all of the impressionist paintings you have been using as prompts lately. Cheers

  2. It is amazing that in his darkest times, Van Gogh could produce such exquisite art. I hope that even though he was not praised in his time that he painted for himself, not needing lauds from others. Starry Night is my favorite painting with his Twelve Sunflowers a close second.

  3. You did such a great series with music a few months ago, and now this series of impressionist painting with haiku is truly excellent.

  4. I am really enjoying these prompts/posts on the impressionists, very informative. Thanks Kristjaan.

  5. Hello fellow poets.. I apologize for my absence from this excellent community.. But it felt I needed a little rest from this. There are a few other communities where I am getting more and more involved. I love this painting and have used it to illustrate my haiku before.. .. I will find some way of reconnect. Björn

  6. Ha, great advice and lovely Haiku.... I can't comment on yourblog

  7. Ever so late... I'm a bit busy at the moment, so I'm missing the deadlines, I'm afraid. But just to show that I'm still keeping in touch with the CDHK family, here's my response to the prompt :)