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The Starry Night: A Language of Color

The Starry NightAt dusk and after nightfall, find a location where artificial light is absent and immerse yourself in the drama of the nocturnal skyscape. This iconic painting is the expression of van Gogh’s language of evocative color and passionate mark-making.

The Museum of Modern Art says: “The whirling forms in the sky […] match published astronomical observations of clouds of dust and gas known as nebulae.

The style he developed in Paris and carried through to the end of his life became known as Post-Impressionism, a term encompassing works made by artists unified by their interest in expressing their emotional and psychological responses to the world through bold colors and expressive, often symbolic images. In a letter to his sister Willemien, touching upon the mind and temperament of artists, van Gogh once wrote that he was ‘very sensitive to color and its particular language, its effects of complementaries, contrasts, harmony.'”

The Starry Night
by Vincent van Gogh

Date: Saint Rémy, June 1889. Medium: Oil on canvas.

View this painting at:
The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY.
Floor 5, in Painting and Sculpture I, Gallery 1.

Source: “Vincent van Gogh: Emotion, Vision, and A Singular Style,”, accessed August 20, 2015,

Cumulus Clouds

cumulus“Throughout the world, one of the most favored clouds among skywatchers is the cumulus cloud. The puffy, fluffy, whimsical clouds add character to beautiful sunny days, yet they become quite dramatic when they grow into huge, stormy thunderheads.

The word ‘cumulus’ is Latin for the word ‘heap’. When warm, moist air rises, water vapor eventually cools and condenses on particles (called condensation nuclei) into tiny water droplets. As the process continues, water droplets continue to accumulate upwards, creating heaps visible in the sky as white, fluffy clouds. Essentially, a cumulus-type cloud is a cloud that develops in a vertical direction from the bottom up.”

Source: “Sky Watching: Cumulus Clouds,” by Chrissy Warrilow., accessed August 20, 2015,

Constable – Sky as the Chief Sentiment

In his “Letter from Hampstead, October 23, 1821,” the great landscape painter, John Constable, writes about the great communicative capacity of the skyscape:

“That landscape painter who does not make his skies a very material part of his composition, neglects to avail himself of one of his greatest aids. Sir Joshua Reynolds, speaking of the landscapes of Titian, of Salvator, and of Claude, says: ‘Even their skies seem to sympathize with their subjects.’ I have often been advised to consider my sky as ‘a white sheet thrown behind the objects’. Certainly, if the sky is obtrusive, as mine are, it is bad; but if it is evaded, as mine are not, it is worse; it must and always shall with me make an effectual part of the composition. It will be difficult to name a class of landscape in which the sky is not the key not, the standard of scale, and the chief organ of sentiment.”

Source: Joshua Charles Taylor, ed. Nineteenth-century Theories of Art. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987), 300.

View of Toledo by El Greco

Eerie, evocative clouds that feel like the energy and passion you find in the work of the Abstract Expressionists. Even more amazing when you consider that El Greco painted this in the 16th Century!

View of ToledoView of Toledo
by El Greco (Domenikos Theotokopoulos)

Date: ca. 1598–99. Medium: Oil on canvas

View this painting at:
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY.
Gallery 611 – Spanish 16th- and 17th-Century Painting

For more info: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Hear the Met’s Chairman of European Paintings, Keith Christiansen, speak about this painting and his obsession with clouds.

Types of Clouds in the Bible

When the Bible mentions clouds, sometimes it refers to literal clouds (like we see in the sky) and, other times, the clouds are symbolic or are the visible manifestation of the divine presence. In the Old Testament, there are four types of clouds; two in the New Testament.

Old Testament

The Literal Cloud, The Metaphorical Cloud, The Theophanic Cloud, The Eschatological/Apocalyptic Cloud.

New Testament

The Literal/Metaphorical Cloud, The Theophanic/Eschatological Cloud.

Discover these types of clouds in Scripture here: Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology

Source: “Cloud, Cloud of the Lord,” by Richard M. Davidson., accessed August 20, 2015,

London from Hampstead, with a double rainbow by John Constable

The transcendent quality of this work is communicated after, what the British Museum calls, “careful and specific observation of the weather.”

Constable London from HampsteadThey say that a few years prior to this work, Constable had suffered the loss of his wife, Maria, and that he, “occasionally considered a rainbow to be a symbol of resurrection, a thought that may have been comforting as he contemplated his late wife’s favourite view.”

London from Hampstead, with a double rainbow
by John Constable

Date: June, 1831. Medium: Watercolour with scraping out on grey paper.

The British Museum, London, England.

Source: “A View from the Artist’s Home,”, accessed August 20, 2015,,_london_from_ha.aspx

God’s Covenant with Noah

In the Old Testament of the Holy Bible, the eighth and ninth books of Genesis, the account of Noah describes how God made a covenant with all living creatures. At this point, Noah and his family members have already endured the journey on the ark and the flood waters have subsided. (If you aren’t familiar with the whole story of Noah, read Genesis 6, 7, 8, and 9.)

God uses a bow (or rainbow) in the clouds to communicate His everlasting covenant that the waters will never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. This is not only a covenant with Noah, his descendants, and all living creatures at that time. This is a covenant with all living creatures from that time to the present day.

The scripture says that when God brings clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, He will remember this covenant. That sounds like language to me. He is proclaiming/expressing/speaking His covenant with the elements that He puts in the skyscape. I also really like how it says that God brings the clouds and the bow over the earth. It is a reminder that God is the great artist, painting the sky every day and every night. His is omniscience; knowing and directing every gust of wind, every ice crystal in every cloud, and every ray of sun that breaks through each cloud.

Surely, God knows us and knows our hearts and wants to speak to each one of us every day and every night, and in every moment of our lives. Let’s listen.

Genesis 8:20-22 (ESV)

20 Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and took some of every clean animal and some of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. 21 And when the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma, the Lord said in his heart, “I will never again curse[a] the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. 22 While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.”

Genesis 9:1-17 (ESV)

1 And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. 2 The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every bird of the heavens, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea. Into your hand they are delivered. 3 Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. 4 But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. 5 And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man.

6 “Whoever sheds the blood of man,
by man shall his blood be shed,
for God made man in his own image.

7 And you,[a] be fruitful and multiply, increase greatly on the earth and multiply in it.”

8 Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, 9 “Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you, 10 and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the livestock, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark; it is for every beast of the earth. 11 I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” 12 And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: 13 I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16 When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” 17 God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.”

Chapter 8 – a. Genesis 8:21 Or dishonor
Chapter 9 – a. Genesis 9:7 In Hebrew you is plural

Source: “The Book of Genesis – English Standard Version (ESV),”, accessed August 19, 2015.

Clouds in the Bible

According to the English Standard Version (ESV), the word “cloud” is written in the Bible 148 times; 126 in the Old Testament, 122 in the New Testament.

Explore these scriptures on Bible Gateway:

Genesis (3)
Exodus (20)
Leviticus (2)
Numbers (16)
Deuteronomy (4)
Judges (2)
2 Samuel (2)
1 Kings (4)
2 Chronicles (2)
Nehemiah (2)
Job (15)
Psalm (13)
Proverbs (3)
Ecclesiastes (3)
Isaiah (11)
Jeremiah (1)
Lamentations (2)
Ezekiel (14)
Daniel (1)
Hosea (1)
Joel (1)
Nahum (2)
Zephaniah (1)
Zechariah (1)

Matthew (3)
Mark (3)
Luke (4)
Acts (1)
1 Corinthians (2)
1 Thessalonians (1)
Hebrews (1)
Jude (1)
Revelation (6)

Source: Search for the word “cloud” under English Standard Version (ESV),, accessed August 19, 2015.