Nature, in and of itself, can often look like a work of art. So, it’s no surprise that so many pieces of art over the years have been inspired by the beauty of nature. The night sky, in particular, has been the muse for many. These 11 masterpieces showcase the artist’s unique view of the nighttime sky above.
1. The Starry Night, Vincent Van Gogh
It would be completely unjust to create a list of the most beautiful paintings inspired by the night sky without mentioning Van Gogh’s Starry Night painting. This, one of the most recognizable paintings in the world, was created in 1889. Van Gogh painted the masterpiece from the Saint-Paul-de-Mausole asylum during his stay there. The sweeping lines and bright stars and moon are the most eye-catching part of the painting.
2. Shooting Stars, Frederic Edwin Church
Shooting stars are one of the most whimsical parts of the night sky. Almost everyone has been told to wish on a shooting star at some point in their lives. With this painting, Church captured the light-hearted almost fantastical feeling these falling stars evoke through a woman sitting on the moon while birds carry the stars away.
3. Moonlight, Wood Island Light, Winslow Homer
Winslow Homer’s Moonlight, Wood Island Light was painted in 1894 from Homer’s studio in Portland, Maine. It depicts the ocean waves crashing on the rocks of the beach under the bright moonlight. Homer was suddenly struck by inspiration and completed the painting in an impressive five hours and is currently in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.
4. Night With Her Train of Stars, Edward Robert Hughes R.W.S.
Much like Church, Hughes took his inspiration from the night sky and added a fantasy twist. Instead of giving us a direct reproduction of the sky above, he depicted the night as a woman. Behind this woman with massive, angel-like wings is her train of stars.
5. Night: a Port in the Moonlight, 1748, Claude-Joseph Vernet
The night isn’t always associated with hustle and bustle. Many viewers often see images of the still night sky but that isn’t what Vernet paints. He shows ships moving under the moonlight and you can even see a group enjoying a fire on the beach.
6. The Meteor of 1860, Frederic Edwin Church
This American painter was best known for his landscape works, which is why this painting seems so lifelike. This work takes inspiration from Church’s experience in seeing a meteor procession that passed search in 1860. Having witnessed such a rare event, Church tried to recreate the view on canvas and succeeded in doing so.
7. Starry Night Over The Rhone, Vincent Van Gogh
While The Starry Night may be his most famous nighttime inspired work, it’s certainly not the only one by Vincent Van Gogh. This work depicts Van Gogh’s view from a spot on the bank of the Rhone river, within walking distance of the artist’s home. The lights from across the bank can be seen reflected in the water, with the night sky full of bright stars. There is a peaceful element to this painting, one that transcends time to bring the viewer back to the night when Van Gogh painted the scene.
8. Starry Night, Edvard Munch
Not to be confused with its predecessor on the list with almost the same name, this work actually comes from the artist more famously responsible for The Scream. Munich’s painting is more monochromatic than Van Gogh’s, which the entire work being created in shades of blue. These tones work together to mimic the color of the night when there is little light in the sky. The lighter blue tones of the sky show light from stars peeking through as if to create a sense of comfort in the viewer.
9. Café Terrace on the Place du Forum, Vincent Van Gogh
This third work of Van Gogh is another that captures the night sky in impressive detail. Painted in late 1888, this work captures an empty cafe terrace illuminated under the moonlight. The painting uses bright yellows to capture the city under the night sky just as much as the night sky itself.
10. Plum Blossom and the Moon, Katsushika Hokusai
Plum Blossom and the Moon steps away from the Western style of painting that’s seen with many oil paintings and instead uses Hokusai’s Eastern technique inspiration. The painting shows a beautifully shaded moon and a branch of cherry blossoms in the moonlight.
11. Nocturne in Black and Gold, The Falling Rocket, James McNeill Whistler
This 1875 oil painting uses a series of muted colors to convey an image of smoke rising above the water in contrast to the night sky. Nocturne has a sister artwork titled
Nocturne in Black and Gold, The Firewheel. Both works were inspired by the Cremorne Gardens, of which the American artist was quite fond.
The night sky has been an inspiration to artists for centuries and it’ll continue to be an inspiration for years to come. More masterpieces inspired by the nighttime sky are sure to come as new artists give us a view of the sky through their creative eyes.