Starlight Over the Rhone is a precursor to the much more famous “Starry, Starry Night” by Vincent van Gogh. It features a boundless black sky that merges into the murky waters of the Rhone below. Stars shine brightly above and are reflected in the river.

The sky, of course, is the most impressive piece of the work, but what I love most about this piece, is the couple walking along the river. The two appear in the bottom right of the painting, and are dwarfed by the landscape. Their faces are indecipherable, and they drift through the space. I think about them often, mostly I think about the idea of relationships and humanity. There are two people, together, compact, wandering, amidst this vast emptiness. They are together.

We don’t know who they are, but their comfort is palpable. It almost doesn’t matter who they were, it is simply the idea they present: an idea of comfort, of belonging, of compassion, of love that exists amongst all the black. I look at this painting whenever I feel sad, and think about all the love in the world. I think about how in a universe full of emptiness, of vastness, we still have each other here.

– Katie Ligmond (Ph.D. Candidate)