Aliza Sragow

Aliza Sragow

West Orange, NJ
Art History
English (minor)

Aliza Sragow (Class of 2020), is an Art History major with an English minor from West Orange, New Jersey. After taking a gap year in Israel for a year after high school, she came to University of Hartford in the Fall of 2016. She spent two years at the Hillyer School and during her second year at Hillyer, she started taking Art History courses with the Hartford Art School. After getting her Associate’s degree from Hillyer, Aliza transitioned right into the Hartford Art School while taking courses with Arts and Sciences to complete her English minor. In the Spring of 2019, she became the Art History intern at the Joseloff Gallery, assisting Rico Reyes with tasks such as setting up galleries for shows and going through the art collection database.

While he had painted stars before, the three “starry night” paintings he made during the last three years of his life mark Van Gogh’s personal psychological journey to finding his destined star.

Now that he had finally tracked down his star, he felt as though he could leave the asylum peacefully while knowing where he would end up when he himself would die.

Van Gogh’s Escape into the Stars

The last three years of Vincent Van Gogh’s life, 1888-1890, were some of the hardest yet memorable parts of his life, all starting in February 1888 when Van Gogh’s cousin-law and art teacher, Anton Mauve (1838-1888), died suddenly at the age of 49[1]. His death greatly depressed Van Gogh as Mauve had been a close confidante as well as his mentor, so he ended up mourning him for a handful of months while still living by himself in Arles. In the months following Mauve’s death, both Mauve and the very concept of death flooded his mind and he looked for ways to understand it. His way of understanding came from how he would look at the stars when dreaming, appearing almost like a map for a painter to use to travel to the stars after dying[2]. While he had painted stars before, the three “starry night” paintings he made during the last three years of his life mark Van Gogh’s personal psychological journey to finding his destined star.

Aliza Sragow, Vincent Van Gogh, Starry Night Over the Rhone

Starry Night over the Rhone 1888 was painted at a time when Gauguin had not yet agreed to join him in Arles. This is expressed in the painting as the stars are small, indicating how far away they are. A constellation is visible in the sky, almost appearing to create a map that Van Gogh could eventually use to get to his star. However, just like he could not force Gauguin to join him in Arles, he could not simply access this map to his star since he was not dead.

Starry Night 1889 was painted a month after Van Gogh admitted himself into the asylum. While some of the stars in it still create a constellation, the stars are big and bright, feeling far more accessible to Van Gogh. This likely happened for him because of the ear cutting incident: the event knocked him unconscious from losing so much blood and if he had not been found, he would have died. This near-death experience made the stars feel more accessible to him, but the spiraling shown in the stars indicates that he still needed to find his destined star, making his journey not close to being over.

Aliza Sragow, Vincent Van Gogh, Starry Night

Road with Cypress and Star 1890 was painted towards the end of Van Gogh’s time in the asylum, when he felt as though he was ready to leave. The sky is much lighter than the other two paintings, indicating that night was turning into morning to wake up from the night scene and leave the asylum. The only night related things left in the sky asides from the moon is one particularly bright, swirling star. This relates back to Starry Night which had numerous swirling stars. This indicates that Van Gogh had found the star he was destined to go to and was finally able to accept the concept of death. Now that he had finally tracked down his star, he felt as though he could leave the asylum peacefully while knowing where he would end up when he himself would die.

[1] https://www.britannica.com/biography/Anton-Mauve
[2] Van Gogh letter to Theo July 1888[2]

Aliza Sragow, Vincent Van Gogh, Road with Cypress and Star
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