The Dutch master Vincent van Gogh painted The Starry Night in 1889, and it is widely regarded as among his very finest works. The picture is oil-on-canvas and dominated by a night sky, roiled by wind-currents and pierced-through by radiant orbs of yellow, set above a small village pockmarked by window-lights. The painting has been held by the Museum of Modern Art since 1941 and is one of the most recognizable images in western art.
Minecraft creator ChrisDaCow has spent years making seriously impressive builds, and set himself the challenge of recreating The Starry Night in the game. Here’s a brief timelapse of the end result:
This 8-minute video right at the top encapsulates what in the end was a month of work as ChrisDaCow struggled with how to build elements of the scene in order to get the right perspective and capture elements like brushstrokes as best he could. This wasn’t just an aesthetic challenge: the amount of engineering know-how that’s going into elements like the buildings is seriously impressive.
Chris DaCow says that what lies behind this is “honestly just years of practice and a love for the craft!” I asked Chris about why he’d embarked on the project. “I set myself the goal because starry night seems like it would be such a beautiful place to walk around in,” he writes. “I wanted to be able to look up from inside the town and actually see van Gogh’s Starry Night sky! What’s funny is I was not a major van Gogh fan before I started but after creating the entire build he is definitely my favorite artist.
I also asked the creator about his used of forced perspective in recreating the image. “I had to build a forced perspective because Minecraft literally was not large enough to load in the actual distance required,” ChrisDaCow writes. “It would have needed a render distance of over 64 chunks if I had made the large tree in the foreground further away and smaller.”
The map is unfortunately not available to the public as he had to make a forced perspective within the game otherwise the image would not fit. I’ve asked the creator to elaborate on some of the techniques he used and why he picked this particular image, and will update with any response.
We live in one hell of a world. Vincent van Gogh’s work may now be immortal but he had a very rough life, without any notable commercial success, and struggled with depression. This melancholy inhabits some of his work, as here, yet is shot-through with awe at nature’s patterns and bursting pockets of light. The painter did not write much about the composition of what would become his most famous work, though did write to his brother Theo: “This morning I saw the countryside from my window a long time before sunrise, with nothing but the morning star, which looked very big. ” 133 years later, and even in our contemporary modes of expression, it looms larger than ever.