Have you read Vincent’s letters to his brother Theo? I haven’t yet. I found this quote in Gardner’s Art Through the Ages (page 918):
Perhaps death is not the hardest thing in a painter’s life. . . . [L]ooking at the stars always makes me dream, as simply as I dream over the black dots representing towns and villages on a map. Why, I ask myself, shouldn’t the shining dots of the sky be as accessible as the black dots on the map of France? Just as we take the train to get to Tarascon or Rouen, we take death to reach a star.
~ Vincent van Gogh in a letter to Theo, September 1888.
He painted Starry Night in 1889.
He committed suicide in 1890 at age 37.
I wonder if he had read Walt Whitman . . .
This is the hour, O soul, thy free flight into the wordless,
Away from books, away from art, the day erased, the lesson done,
Thee fully forth emerging, silent, gazing, pondering the themes thou lovest best:
Night, sleep, death, and the stars.
- ~ Walt Whitman (1881)