Vincent Van Gogh’s The Starry Night might be one of the most famous paintings in the world, but it is, objectively, not very good.
Let’s start with the obvious: The Starry Night is only 73.7 by 92.1 cm. This is fairly standard, so it’s not bad per se, but there are also much bigger paintings out there. The original The Card Players is 134.6 by 180.3 cm, and Rembrandt’s Pendant portraits of Marten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit is a comes in at 208 by 132 cm. If you look beyond oil paintings, you’ll find even bigger pieces—Michelangelo’s The Last Judgment is a whopping 1370 by 1200 cm! Compared to that, The Starry Night‘s size of less than a metre square looks pathetic.
Worse is the colours, or lack thereof. The Starry Night has lots of blue, and a little bit of yellow, but not much else. There are quite a few shades of each of these, but really, once you’ve seen one blue, you’ve seen them all. They’re just slightly different variations of the same thing. When you get to the bottom right, you find a few more colours, like muted greens and oranges, but it doesn’t change the fact that for 90 percent of the painting, you’re looking at the same two colours. There’s a full spectrum of colours; why didn’t Van Gogh use them all? He must just be very lazy.
Speaking of lazy, where is the re-look value? Every time you look at The Starry Night, it’s the same. Where are the branching paths and different endings? In fact, there’s no story at all. It’s just a painting—no words, no exposition, nothing to tell me what’s going on or who I should be angry at. A painting that isn’t fun to look at should at least tell a story, but The Starry Night doesn’t even do that.
This might all be fine if it wasn’t so unrealistic. I’ve never seen stars that look like the “stars” in the painting, nor a tree that looks like whatever’s going on in the left side. Lighting effects on the houses are non-existent. Overall, the painting looks more like oil on canvas than it does a photo, and that’s a real shame. I’m not saying Van Gogh should have just taken a photo from his window, but he could have at least painted a paint that looks like that. Other artists can paint realistically, why can’t he?
The worst part—the absolute worst part—is the cost. If you want to buy The Starry Night, it’ll cost you hundreds of millions of dollars, and in the most anti-consumer practice of all, it’s retailer exclusive. There are plenty of other paintings out there that are bigger, that use more colours, that have use words to tell a story, that look more realistic, and that cost less.