Vincent Van Gogh’s, “The Starry Night” needs little introduction. It is one of the most recognizable paintings of the past century. In fact, this artistic work is so revered and loved that even the detailed history surrounding its inception is well documented. From an astrological perspective, this is significant because it allows us the opportunity to dig deeper in appreciating this accomplishment in terms of the transits that were active around the time of Van Gogh’s inspiration for this work of art.
Van Gogh voluntarily admitted himself into an asylum on May 8, 1889. It was during this stay that he was his most productive, creating some of his most memorable pieces. Specifically, letters have been retrieved during this time frame that Van Gogh wrote to his brother, Theo, on June 6 explicitly identifying “the morning star” (Venus) from his window and on June 18 confirming that he had painted a “starry sky”. From these letters, it is obvious that Van Gogh’s inspiration for this painting was Venus and that “The Starry Sky” was probably started sometime after June 6, but before June 18. The astrological transits from this time frame appear to support this assumption.
On June 18, both the Sun and Mars were at 27 degrees Gemini, about 5 degrees past Van Gogh’s 12th house North Node at 22 degrees Gemini. This is significant because the 12th house represents areas of life that include asylums and mental health institutions. Any conjunction between the Sun and Mars represents a high degree of energy, motivation and drive to accomplish something that will ultimately become a reflection of the individual. The North Node represents an evolutionary path or goal for this lifetime. The combination of all these dynamics reflects Van Gogh’s sudden boost of energy to create art that would help him grow as an individual while also being confined within this asylum. The most intense urge from these dynamics had to have occurred when this conjunction was building toward exactness.
So if we move the transits backwards, we find that the Moon was opposite the Sun (Full Moon) on June 13…and this Full Moon was aligned with Van Gogh’s nodal axis with the Sun’s alignment to the North Node exact to the degree (partile). Whenever a Full Moon is aligned to an individual’s natal planets/points it tends to yield sudden (and sometimes shocking) awareness of situations that require attention. With the dynamics already delineated for transit Sun-Mars and natal North Node, this sudden awareness was the inspiration for this artistic work. Also, this inspiration was connected to Venus because its position on 6/13 (10 degrees Libra) placed Neptune at the midpoint between the Sun and Venus. Sun/Venus midpoints are astrological signatures of the artist or an artistic development, so Neptune’s association with the imaginative functions and detachment from physical reality contributed to the subjective, fantasy-like feel of this archetype of Expressionism.
With this potential date identified, we can now try to isolate a probable time frame for when this inspiration occurred. Around sunrise, Venus was visible above the eastern horizon. In the painting, Venus is depicted towards the left-hand side and from Van Gogh’s perspective outwards, this would have been the east that he was viewing. With the transiting ascendant aligned with the Full Moon, Mars and Van Gogh’s North Node, it is possible that this Ascendant was a “trigger” for the event that occurred sometime around 4:24 in the morning. This time places the sign of Virgo on the cusp of the 5th house, but if the chart is moved forward to 4:34 AM then that sign changes to Libra. This is significant because Venus then becomes the ruler of the 5th house of creativity and directly ties Venus to the source of inspiration that ultimately led to Van Gogh’s creative expression. And this astrological line of deduction yield the following chart.
The bi-wheel below provides a comparison of the two charts. The following transits contributed significantly to this moment that became memorialized in this famous painting.
- Full Moon – Some of this was delineated in the previous section, but the significance of this alignment should not be understated. This Full Moon hit to Van Gogh’s nodal axis was huge. In a way, its intent was to shine a light on his path in life through his artistic work. Additionally, the synchronicity of this transiting stellium aligning within Van Gogh’s 12th house while he was confined is astounding.
- Transit Venus – Venus was actually in retrograde from 4/10-5/22 and moving over Van Gogh’s stellium of planetary bodies including Pluto, Uranus and Saturn. This time frame was an incubation period where he was considering the artistic possibilities of this painting. Once Venus’ movement went direct, he felt compelled to put these ideas into motion.
- Transit Jupiter – Jupiter was in retrograde and in trine aspect to natal Uranus. Jupiter-Uranus contacts are typically seen as signatures of surprisingly big success.
- Transit Uranus – Uranus was also in retrograde during this time frame and opposing the midpoint of Van Gogh’s Sun and Mercury. Uranus transits have a reputation for triggering surprising flashes of insight and breakthroughs. With this opposition, it sparked a creative impulse that helped to define his identity and thinking within this time of solitude.
It is a shame the Van Gogh was not able to see the value of his artistic creation, but this brief analysis offers an important lesson in how the astrological dynamics of the moment can define how our creations will be received despite our critical judgments. Each of us has a unique blend of archetypal energies that incarnated into existence in order to be expressed. Because art is a reflection of those archetypes, their expression is the ultimate form of faith that the existence of our identity has purpose.
 It should also be noted that much of this painting was created from Van Gogh’s imagination and memory and not an actual representation of the landscape outside his window.
 This Full Moon also aligned with Van Gogh’s Moon-Jupiter conjunction. Jupiter rules Van Gogh’s 10th house of career and reputation and the Moon is his chart ruler and representative of his basic identity.
 Mercury rules Van Gogh’s 12th house.
 Article image was provided via Shutterstock.