The Starry Night is an oil on canvas painted in June 1889 by the Dutch post-impressionist painter Vincent van Gogh. 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 as it wasn’t. The view has been identified as the one from his bedroom window of his asylum room at Saint-Rémy-de-Provence which was facing east at that time. It was a view which Van Gogh painted variations of no fewer than twenty-one times including The Starry Night. He did this painting just before sunrise, with the addition of an idealized village.
It has been in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City since 1941, acquired through the Lillie P. Bliss Bequest. It is regarded as among Van Gogh’s finest works although Van Gogh referred to the painting as a “failure”,but it is one of the most recognized paintings in the history of Western culture.
“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.
After having initially held it back, Van Gogh sent The Starry Night to Theo in Paris on 28 September 1889, along with nine or ten other paintings.Theo died less than six months after Vincent, in January, 1891. Theo’s widow, Jo, then became the caretaker of Van Gogh’s legacy. She sold the painting to poet Julien Leclercq in Paris in 1900, who turned around and sold it to Émile Schuffenecker, Gauguin’s old friend, in 1901. Jo then bought the painting back from Schuffenecker before selling it to the Oldenzeel Gallery in Rotterdam in 1906. From 1906 to 1938 it was owned by Georgette P. van Stolk, of Rotterdam, who sold it to Paul Rosenberg, of Paris and New York. It was through Rosenberg that the Museum of Modern Art acquired the painting in 1941.