Source of Van Gogh's Starry Night


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I dunno that seems like awfully skimpy evidence. What discipline is Benson from?


I agree, there are plenty of unfounded arguments, by people who aren’t art historians, for where van Gogh (and da Vinci, and others) got his ideas. That van Gogh showed the same swirliness in pictures that didn’t include the night sky (like the background of a self-portrait or two) isn’t mentioned or considered. Doctors like to think van Gogh was suffering epilepsy, or was poisoned by ergot, psychologists like to think he was schizo, most of it is through and through buncombe.

"There’s nothing to prove he didn’t see it! "

A key linch-pin in most weird theories (see [The Turin Shroud: How Da Vinci Fooled History]
(, for example). Unless they have a citation for the book being in the asylum library, and a checkout card with VanGogh on it, I’ll remain dubious.

Interesting, though.

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The sky actually looks a bit like sometimes. With very light snow, or I suppose high icy clouds. You observe halos around the moon and planets. I’ve never seen it around stars, but back then the sky over a city would be a lot darker.

But, you know, maybe he saw that illustration too.

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While I have always had a soft spot for Van Gogh, I have not studied the academic research on him, so the theory I am about to type may well have been considered and dismissed by scholars much more knowledgeable than I am:

His way of painting is what the world looks like to me without glasses/contacts, especially if you add in artistic creativity and skill. Lights, especially. Could he have been nearsighted?


Ahhh, you’re summarising. Also, ‘price’ (autocorrect?) threw me off.

Thanks. Also, I was referencing the wrong bad-theory book. This one is actuality much better than Holy Blood; the authors do experiments to make primitive photographs (but they use all sorts of modern shortcuts), and there is an interesting basis in the chemical/commercial origins of alchemy for what eventually did become photography. But it’s a shite theory, and heavily rests on “these two guys (DaVinci and somebody else) were both in the same country in the same month and nobody says they didn’t meet.” Sheesh.

Seems legit. I mean, I was born in the same month and country as famed director Paul Thomas Anderson (thanks Wikipedia!), so it would be totally plausible that we’re best buds.


Hrm. I’ve never actually seen the two of you at the same time…


I’m no art historian, but I wonder if they’ve considered the possibility he just liked swirly patterns?

Crazy talk. I guess next you’re going to say he was influenced by…I dunno…Japanese art, or something.

Reputable sources have already documented where his real inspiration came from. Don’t let the title fool you: those aren’t stars. They’re UFOs.


This is about as likely as a record album designer for Joy Division being influenced by a graph of pulsar emissions.

Nice one.

Yes, I’ve heard this before as well. He was actually painting roughly what he saw. Sounds reasonable to me.

Good theory, except the fact that the stars in the painting are not actually “swirls” in the same way the spiral galaxy is shown. The stars have circular halos, as @jeff_fisher suggests appear in certain atmospheric conditions, or @chgoliz points out happens with people who have some vision problems. The only swirly bit is the object at the center of the painting which is not a star. And it’s not so much swirly as flowy, at least how I see it. More reminiscent of a gust of wind or a cloud than a galaxy as depicted in the Parson’s drawing.

Could Van Gogh have been inspired by it? Sure. But I find it a stretch to conclude it was his “source.”

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That is the theory I always heard - speculation involving various visual defects/conditions.
I think that I see a handful of stories every year in ye olde science news feed.

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