Vincent van Gogh's The Starry Night, New York City
Vincent van Gogh’s The Starry Night, New York City
Far more than a pretty picture or a paradigm of post-impressionism, The Starry Night (1889) is special—but not in the way you think it is. In the early 2000s, a group of physicists discovered an uncanny correlation between van Gogh’s ebbing mental state and his curious depiction of natural turbulence with “mathematic precision.” The scientists pinned his technique down to luminance, “a measure of the relative brightness between different points,” according to NPR. But how van Gogh tapped into a complex natural phenomenon he was—at least, consciously—unaware of remains inexplicable.