Starry Night over the Rhone – Arles

Vincent Van Gogh arrived in Arles from Paris by train in February 1888. I’m guessing it took him a good deal longer than the four hours by TGV it took us to take the same journey just 8 months and 135 years later.

We’ve both had a soft spot for Van Gogh’s paintings, and the more we read, the more we realised that we were walking in his footsteps – literally. We ate at the Night Cafe (a whole other story) and indeed we found a number of sights that he painted in and around Arles.

A map from the local tourist office showed the locations of sites that he painted. A few hours later, we stepped through the gates of the medieval town wall and found ourselves looking at a surprisingly familiar looking river – it was indeed the Rhone.

Van Gogh is considered an impressionist painter, but what is amazing is just how accurately he captured the colours and light and reflections on the water

Starry Night Over the Rhone - Vincent van Gogh

Starry Night Over the Rhone – Vincent van Gogh

[SOURCE: Wikipedia]

A short walk along the embankment led us very near to where he stood to paint this scene. We lacked the stars, however, as it was heavily overcast and raining on and off.

It was said that he painted with three candles fixed to his hat – it’s a great romantic image – but in reality he stood beneath a gas lamp, one of the many lining the embankment.

Not so starry night over the Rhone

Not so starry night over the Rhone

Returning to the scene about an hour after sun down in deep dusk I saw how the streetlamps cast their shimmering streaks of light on the water and realised just how precisely he had captured the scene.

A couple of dodgy looking characters showed some interest as I set up the tripod and took out the camera, so I wasn’t keen to hang around for too long. Nonetheless I took some 15 and 30 second exposures, and was pleased with the results as they appeared in the back screen of the camera.

The clouds reflected a dull brown, rather than the striking navy blue that we had seen on other skies while we were there – and of course there were no stars. But the light on the water really stood out for me. Let me know what you think in the comments below.


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10 Responses to Starry Night over the Rhone – Arles

  1. Juno says:

    Wow, Jerry this is fantastic! I showed my husband the two pictures together he was blown away. More Please!!!…. :)

  2. Merle says:

    This is just wonderful you could be stepping back in time apart for the rain

  3. Anneliese says:

    I can’t say anything else but that it is so interesting what you are photographing. I always liked the comparison of paintings with the reality. I have made a post “rag pickers – or recycling” where we found an old painting of W├╝rzburg/Germany in our village at a bulk-pickup collection – and in Wikipedia the same sight photographed – a wonderful find.

    • Thanks Anneliese – I’ve always enjoyed comparisons of today with old photos and also to see how realistically a painter captured the scene. Van Gogh was a real surprise to me because his work is so dynamically executed, yet really quite accurate and very recognisable when you see the place in real life :-)

  4. Andy Lloyd Williams says:

    That is so exciting, Jerry: I love it. What a shame it was overcast but it is still stunning.

  5. Maureen Bond says:

    What a great comparison. I can see some stars and halos around them. How well Vincent captured them. Only the modern lights, bridge and still water are different.
    A wonderful photo Jerry.

    • Thanks Maureen – We really enjoyed doing the comparison. The ‘stars’ are actually where rain landed on the lens and made a halo around some refracted light – but I liked the effect. The water was made still by the long exposure – in that respect Van Gogh was more accurate than my photo! :-)

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