• Chloe Fenech

Inspiring Space Painters

I probably spend a bit too much time thinking about the stars, wishing I could see more of them from light-polluted skies, and wishing I could understand the complicated physics a little better. Space has been inspiring everyone for centuries, whether it’s small children learning of the planets and the Sun to budding astronomers collecting their first telescopes, to the great artists of the past and present. While landscapes, portraits and other subjects dominate the world of art, there are several spectacular examples of space art which I’m particularly drawn too, as each of them is its own unique interpretation. The artist’s own vision of the heavens, as they saw it and only the way they saw it. While the stars may appear immovable, move your head a few inches and the whole cosmos shifts in front of you.

Below are some of my favourite space paintings, by some artists that you wouldn’t expect.

Georgia O’Keeffe, Starlight Night, 1963


One of my favourite artists, as much for the fact that she was a stubborn, indepedent woman as much as I adore her beautiful sensual flowers and ethereal New Mexico landscapes. This particular watercolour, painted during the last two decades of her long life, is simple yet beautiful, as Georgia has effortlessly captured the strict horizontal and vertical lines that represent the deep order in the Universe. At the same time the irregular patches of white paper showing through beautifully symbolise the flickering and pulsating of the stars, and possibly a planet or two. Whether the deep water run in the bottom left is intentional or not, I’m not sure, but it works as a beautiful deep night reflection of stars on gently lapping water.

Vincent Van Gogh, The Starry Night, 1889


I can’t write about brilliant art and artists without mentioning dear Vincent. His fragile mental state no doubt contributed to his love of the night sky, or perhaps he was looking for some more distant meaning in his turbulent light. This somewhat crude yet neat painting shows a man in deep despair, yet it’s a stunningly serene and calm painting to look at. Hopefully Vincent had the seem sense of restfulness while he was painting it.

Frederic Edwin Church, Meteor of 1860


A traditional landscape painter from Connecticut, Frederic couldn’t help but paint the spectacular sight that he and millions of people across the United States witnessed in July 20, 1860. This unique phenomenon, called The Great Meteor Procession, was beautifully captured in this moody piece where the meteors glow so brilliantly you’d think the painting is hot to the touch.

Joan Miro, Full Moon Over The Earth,  1961


While I’m not usually a big fan of Spanish Cubist/Abstract-Expressionist painter Joan Miro, I love the simplicity of this lithograph. A single line represents the horizon of the earth and the sliver of a curved fish-hook could be Venus, the star that rises with the moon.

Johannes Vermeer, The Astronomer, 1668


The oldest painting on the list if by one of Holland’s finest painters. This painting is charming for it’s composition, don’t we all feel like this astronomer? There’s almost a childlike wonder in his posture and his hand.

Lieve Vershuier, The Great Comet Of 1680


The first comet ever discovered by telescope and possibly the first ever captured on canvas. The comet was so bright it was visible during daylight, but the artist instead chose to capture it in a haunting, moving Goya-eqsue scene.

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