Starry Night

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Starry Night

From Fred Ross

Published before 2005

Chris Miller wrote:
I remember the day I first saw Starry Night at MOMA. It was so thrilling.

And Miles Mathis agreed:
Yes, indeed it was. Someone who feels nothing in front of that painting is missing one of the emotional high points in all of art history. It somehow ties into that infinite emotion of nature itself, that I was trying to describe yesterday. The painting is a little scary: as if it really has a great deal more than the humanly appropriate portion of feeling. You have to protect yourself from the painting -- like from a huge bonfire, or a very high cliff, calling out to you to jump.

To which ARC Chairman, Fred Ross, responded:


While I consider Starry Night one of Van Gogh's best works, it's still ...... one of Van Gogh's best works, not even close in my opinion .... even in emotional force ...... to thousands of works by other artists ..... yes, thousands.

The technique so pierces through the content, that it interferes with the emotional force that the artist probably was feeling, and the layers of paint are too think and too crude to enable one to suspend disbelief.

Vincent van Gogh: Starry Night
Vincent van Gogh
The Starry Night
This is one of those paintings that has taken on an iconology that obfuscates the ability of most people to see it for what it is.

Please tell me which of you saw that painting before you heard of the artist and that it was considered one of history’s greatest masterpieces???

Don’t get me wrong, I actually like the painting, but one of history’s greatest..............? I think not.

Along a similar but not totally identical vein, John Atkinson Grimshaw painted scores of works with more successful and believable evening moods that this one-off work by Van Gogh. Please look at his gallery here on ARC and perhaps this accompanying work as an example.

I’ll bet not one of you. The prestige suggestion is so strong, that basically even most people whose ideology goes with realism i1nstead of modernism .... most of us used that work and Guernica as the token paintings that you conceded to as to try to sound not too obdurate and out of the mainstream belief system. I did myself, and it took seeing it again about 10 years ago to finally pierce that armor too.

John Atkinson Grimshaw: Whitby from Scotch Head
John Atkinson Grimshaw
Whitby from Scotch Head
Oil on board, 1879
I’m sorry ... it’s not that good. It’s just better than almost anything else that modernism (defined as post impressionism forward) ever produced.

Miles, just look at the way you stated that .... using the same kind of intimidation that modernism always uses. If you don’t see it, you’re a dummy .... you’re missing one of art history’s high points.

Sorry Miles, I can think of hundreds of higher high points than that off the top of my head .... and hundreds more off the middle and bottom.

But I must tell you, I would have agreed with you even up to 12 years ago.

-- Fred