Rural landscapes have always been a popular muse for artists. However, especially as industrialization brought more to the forefront, city life has been a strong muse as well. To offer a taste of what this muse brought out of talented artists over the years, these are just a few examples of masterpieces of a city at night painting.
One of the most famous paintings of all time is Vincent Van Gogh’s The Starry Night. This painting was completed in 1889 while Van Gogh was staying at the Saint-Paul-de-Mausole asylum. The painting was actually an artistically exaggerated image of the view from his window in the asylum.
When Van Gogh started to struggle with his health issues, he tended to use the same techniques he did early in his career such as using darker colors. This was the case when he painted Starry Night.
The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere is a by the famous American artist Grant Wood. The painting is oil on masonite and the original is currently on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
As the title suggests, this took on a historical subject: the nighttime ride that Paul Revere took to warn Americans that the “British were coming.” It also draws from the poem Paul Revere’s Ride by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow that documents the story.
Couple Riding is a painting from early on in Wassily Kandinsky’s career. It shows the Expressionist themes that were evident early in his career as well as signs of the more abstract themes that he leaned heavily into later in his career.
One of the most striking things about this painting is the coloring. Despite it being a night scene, there is plenty of vibrancy from the way the light reflects on the water, the varying lights in the night sky, and even the clothes that the couple in the painting are wearing.
Sometimes, a city at night can look like an almost eerie mirror to the sights and busy atmosphere of a large city during the day. That’s exactly what viewers get when they look at Blackman Street, London by John Atkinson Grimshaw.
The painting shows a more realistic depiction of the city with streetlights offering a warm glow under the night sky. While the people themselves are obscured in shadows, the buildings are painting in exquisite detail. This is a painting that captures the Romanticism spirit well and shows off Grimshaw’s deft and skilled hand.
The concept of a city has been around since ancient times. As such, it only makes sense that more ancient depictions of cityscapes at night exist in art history. This includes a piece by Donato Creti named Achilles Dragging the Body of Hector Around the Walls of Troy.
The painting shows the Greek hero Achilles dragging the body of Trojan Prince Hector around the city walls after a battle. The main reason for this was vengeance for Hector’s murder of Patroclus, a close friend of Achilles. The framing of Achilles in the center of the painting alongside a vivid cape makes him a strong focal point.
Childe Hassam was an American painter heavily influenced by the then-modern Impressionist Movement. He was well-known for scenes of both coastal and urban life. He chose to tackle the latter category with his painting Rainy Midnight Late 1890s.
The painting is rife with signs of Impressionism, most notably the short brushstrokes. This is one of the reasons the artist was able to create the effect of a rainy night so well. He also captured the glowing streetlights brightening the city in the night.
Camille Pissaro was a Dutch-French painter that was a heavyweight in both the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist movements. As such, his work was often recognized by details such as his short brushstrokes and palette of colors.
In his work The Boulevard Montmartre at Night, 1897 he showed off his work in painting a nighttime cityscape. The painting beautifully depicts not only a dark night sky but the contrast of bright streetlights, headlights, and storefronts as well.
Urban life is multi-faceted and often busy. However, at night, the scene can create especially thought-provoking and engaging images. These artists took on the task of capturing these cities at night through time and circumstance. Yet, this is only a portion of what art has to offer for this muse. Don’t hesitate to search further for more paintings to keep in your home or office.