How Could We Have Missed This Critical Detail In Van Gough’s Painting? For 125 Years It Was Hidden In Sight

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We’ve all heard of Van Gough and his famous painting “The Starry Night.” As a lot of artists, Van Gogh lived ina lot of pain and used art to release some of his agony. Unfortunately he died when he was just 37 before even getting a chance to know that he was leaving a legacy behind. He never got to enoy his success and lived in poverty and famine, and spent a lot of time seeking help for his mental illness.

Despite his artwork taking off worldwide in the century after his death, somehow we overlooked a critical detail in his art that made it as special as it is.

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It Turns Out Van Ghogh Was More Than An Aristst…

Vincent Van Gogh. Self-portrait. Oil on canvas (1889). 65 x 54,5 cm.

Photo by Imagno/Getty Images

Photo by Imagno/Getty Images

First, let’s start in the beginning. In his early twenties, Van Goph was like any young man trying to figure out what to do with his life. He tried being a teacher, then an art dealer, and basically none of the careers he tried out were bringing him any happiness. So, he abandoned all of them and took up his real passion: painting. This was his true purpose, and he owed it to himself to see where it could take him. He had no idea what was in store for his art.

Over the next 10 years, Van Gogh would go on to create a reported almost 900 paintings, not counting the ones on paper. The incredible speed broken down would be about 36 paintings an hour!  Sadly, by the time he died at 37, he had only sold one single painting and didn’t get to see how much of an impact he would have on the world. It seems like the delay in appreciating his work wasn’t just in selling his paintings, but in noticing an important detail within them that was always there but we never noticed. It makes Van Goph not only artist but also a scientist….let’s explain how.

Van Gogh Might Have Cut Off His Own Ear

CIRCA 1754: Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear 1889. Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890) Dutch Post-Impressionist artist.

Photo by Universal History Archive/Getty Images

Photo by Universal History Archive/Getty Images

To get to how Van Goph figured out a part of science that even scientists had not yet, we need to tell the story of his asylum. Van Gogh battled a lot of mental health issues, and after a particularly bad psychotic episode, he mutilated his ear and admitted himself into an asylum in France. Doctors didn’t know exactly what his diagnosis was but his symptoms varied between hallucinations, depression, and seizures. Not to mention, Van Gogh was living in poverty in his adulthood and at one point when he was 33, he told his brother he had only had six hot meals all year long. He also drank and smoked a lot.

However, it seems that everything somehow happens for a reason because being in the hospital gave Van Goph an opportunity to focus on his art, having nothing else to do but to look through his barred window. In June 1889, Van Gogh painted the view of the sunrise from his room while living in an asylum. He had spent many days and nights observing the way the light and weather changed and tried to depict in his painting a mix of the sunrise and moonrise, the overcast days with windy and sunny days.

This allowed him to capture a very unique scientific concept…this piece also became his most famous and became known worldwide as the “Starry Night.”

We’re Talking About Turbulence

Turbulence painting

FLY:D / Unsplash

FLY:D / Unsplash

The concept that Van Gogh had managed to capture didn’t even have a name yet, as scientists hadn’t come to understand it. You may recognize the word “turbulence” from riding on planes. You might be thinking it’s the reason the plane shakes when going through a change in air pressure, but turbulence is a little more complicated than that. It’s actually hard to understand exactly.

In fluid dynamics, turbulence or turbulent flow is known as a fluid motion that is observed by chaotic changes in pressure. Turbulence is an irregular motion of the air that happens from eddies and vertical currents. It’s hard to describe it, yet Can Goph managed to depict the way it looks in his painting. He seemed to have observed it and tried to replicate it.

He Was Much Ahead Of His Time

FRANCE - FEBRUARY 01: Paintings by Vincent Van Gogh in Paris, France In February, 1990 - Portrait of the Artist (detail), 1889. Musee d'Orsay, Paris.

Photo by Marc DEVILLE/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Photo by Marc DEVILLE/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

So you have to keep in mind that planes didn’t exist yet and science was still in its very early phases, so “turbulence” wasn’t a known concept. In fact, scientists are just starting now to figure it out. Yet, over 100 years ago, this artist managed not only to observe it but to describe it by depicting it in his paintings while at the hospital.

If you look closely the Starry Night, you’ll notice that circular brushstrokes create the night sky and fill it with swirling clouds and passing stars. This was a different way of capturing light that stood out from the painters before him. The brushstrokes were meant to depict light in motion, moving through the swirls. This gives the illusion of the starlight twinkling and melting through the blue night sky and immerses the observant into the painting. The painting lives on through the way it interacts with the person looking at it.

No Other Artists Were Able To Replicate It

man facing his painting using paintbrush to finish it

El Swaggy / Unsplash

El Swaggy / Unsplash

It’s incredible that over a century later, people are finally noticing Van Gogh’s impressive ability to capture turbulence. Art historians went back to see if other artists did the same and we somehow missed it but they noticed that while most impressionists achieved ” luminance” with their art, none were able to depict turbulence the way Van Gogh did.

The effect of creating a movement of light is called “luminance.” The intensity of the light in the colors mesmerizes the person looking at it and we don’t just mean through its beauty, but through the way, it affects the actual brain! To put it in more scientific terms,  the primitive part of our visual vortex notices light contract and movement but not colors. So to compensate, it blends two differently colored areas when they have the same “luminance.” This is still quite impressive, but Van Gogh was able to go one step further than artists of his time.

Even In The Darkest Times, There Was Light

Even in his darkest time, Van Gogh was able to capture so accurately one of nature’s most complex and confusing concepts, all the way from a hospital with a mutilated ear. He did so a whole 100 years before scientists had access to technology that would allow them to understand it themselves.

Sadly Van Gogh had no idea how innovative, observant, and talented he was.  He died from a gunshot wood when he was just 37 years, just beginning to come into his being. On his deathbed, Can Gogh’s heartbreaking parting words to his brother were “the sadness will last forever”. Yet, today his sadness has become a work of art that brings happiness and awe to many.

This Video Explains The Whole Thing To Expand Your Brain Too

Expand your mind in the way these Ted talks state “one of the most remarkable aspects of the human brain is able ability to recognize patterns and describe them.” Turbulence is one of them but why stop there? The more you can expand your mind, the more you can achieve and the more of your own legacy you can leave behind.

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