It is one of the most instantly recognizable built objects in the world, and the most recognizable icon of Paris, but when it originally opened, it was already the subject of considerable controversy, mostly from Parisian artists who were convinced that the Tower – the tallest building in all of Paris – would disfigure the skyline.
The public felt differently, and the Tower was an instant success, with more than two million visitors in the first six months of its opening. Built for the 1889 World’s Fair, it was intended to last for 20 years and be torn down in 1909. However, the progress of telelcommunications made it increasingly useful as a mast for sending and receiving signals, and so it was allowed to stay.
Today, you’d probably need to fight off all 12 million Parisians if you wanted to take it away.
Martin Heidegger was a German philosopher whose ideas were, to say the least, controversial.
In the Thirties, he was a supporter of Hitler and a member of the Nazi Party. Even after World War Two, he continued to express support for some parts of the Nazi ideology.
In his chosen field of philosophy, he was scarcely less controversial. Heidegger argued that every philosopher before him had misinterpreted the meaning of Plato’s philosophy, largely through not paying enough attention to what he called ‘the question of being’. This question of being underlies all of Heidegger’s work, and was a precursor to later movements such as postmodernism, deconstruction and existentialism.
It is difficult to quickly summarise, but it may be approached by considering the number of different meanings that the word ‘being’ can have, and how possible confusion between them might lead to different interpretations of statements featuring the word.
It is one of the most famous paintings in the entire Western canon, and yet, no one seems to be exactly sure just when “The Starry Night” was painted. While it is generally agreed that it was painted in June of 1889, no one is sure of the exact days – or more likely, nights – that he worked on it.
In May of that year, Van Gogh had committed himself to the hospital at Saint-Paul-de-Mausole, which was housed in a former monastery in Saint-Rémy, less than 20 miles (32 km) from Arles where he had lived for the previous year and painted many of his most well-known works. He painted only a few paintings during his year in the hospital, despite having been given two bedrooms (the second for use as a studio). Of these, “The Starry Night” is the most well-known – indeed, it may be the most well-known of all Van Gogh’s paintings.
The painting itself depicts the night sky as a thing alive with energies and lights. It is a busy image, and yet one that is both playful and restful. The painting depicts the view from the window of Van Gogh’s room, which faced south over the village of Saint-Rémy, although certain liberties have been taken with the view – the presence of the constellation Ursa Major (which should be to the north of the asylum) and of a cypress tree – are both additions not present in the actual view.
Vincent — Don McLean
Fans of Doctor Who should note that this painting was completed after Van Gogh’s encounter with the Doctor and Amy Pond.