More t-shirt art history

Yesterday it was Munch’s The Scream done in cats. Today the Woot t-shirt is based on van Gogh’s Starry Night: ASCII Night by artguyaaron:

The 1889 original:

From Wikipedia:

The Starry Night (Dutch: De sterrennacht) is a painting by the Dutch post-impressionist artist Vincent van Gogh. The painting depicts the view outside his sanitorium room window at Saint-Rémy-de-Provence (located in southern France) at night, although it was painted from memory during the day.

The Woot site includes this entertaining letter from Vincent to his brother Theo on the travails of the sanitorium:

My dear brother

Thanks for your last letter. I obtained permission to pack my trunk, which I’ve sent by goods train. The 30 kilos of luggage one is allowed to take will allow me to take my MacBook, a tablet, and my stylus. I fear my time here has not calmed my nerves as I might have hoped. The room assigned to me is directly across from the sanatoriums’ administrative office and as such the sound of dot matrix printers has taken over my waking moments and now threatens even to infiltrate my dreams.

How are you, brother? So very often do I think of you. God help us, struggling, to- I am sorry, brother. I lost my train of thought. The cursed printer screams like the banshee of Bickerseiland. Honestly were it not for these ridiculous machines my stay here would be nearly perfect. Do they not realize quieter and more efficient machines are now available at a fraction of the cost? I cannot think that purchasing ink ribbons is easy or affordable.

I miss you brother. If you see our dear Anna, please tell her I miss her as well. I shall pass on your tidings to Fanny and Bet’s Graeuwen when next I see them, which should be in the next week. I hope to-

I am sorry, brother. My writing was interrupted again and I was forced to ask the staff member who is apparently printing a lengthy and verbose document if they would at least shut the door. They refused and a most disquieting conversation ensued. I must leave this place, and soon. And now a handshake in thought, and I sincerely wish you the best.

Your most loving brother
Vincent

On to the musical connection, Don McLean‘s 1971 song “Vincent”, also known as “Starry, Starry Night”, which McClean wrote after reading a book about van Gogh’s life. Here’s the song, along with a slide show of van Gogh paintings (by Anthony DiFatta):

The lyrics start out with Starry Night and touch on a number of other van Gogh paintings, with references to the artist’s life:

Starry, starry night
Paint your palette blue and gray
Look out on a summer’s day
With eyes that know the darkness in my soul
Shadows on the hills
Sketch the trees and the daffodils
Catch the breeze and the winter chills
In colors on the snowy linen land

Now I understand what you tried to say to me
And how you suffered for your sanity
How you tried to set them free
They would not listen, they did not know how
Perhaps they’ll listen now

Starry, starry night
Flaming flowers that brightly blaze
Swirling clouds in violet haze
Reflect in Vincent’s eyes of china blue
Colors changing hue
Morning fields of amber grain
Weathered faces lined in pain
Are soothed beneath the artist’s loving hand

Now I understand what you tried to say to me
And how you suffered for your sanity
And how you tried to set them free
They would not listen, they did not know how
Perhaps they’ll listen now

For they could not love you
But still your love was true
And when no hope was left inside
On that starry, starry night
You took your life as lovers often do
But I could have told you, Vincent
This world was never meant
For one as beautiful as you

Starry, starry night
Portraits hung in empty halls
Frameless heads on nameless walls
With eyes that watch the world and can’t forget
Like the strangers that you’ve met
The ragged men in ragged clothes
A silver thorn, a bloody rose
Lie crushed and broken on the virgin snow

Now I think I know what you tried to say to me
And how you suffered for your sanity
And how you tried to set them free
They would not listen, they’re not listening still
Perhaps they never will

This is on McLean’s American Pie album, which starts with the famous title song and ends with a touching performance of William Billings’s “Rivers of Babylon”.

 

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