Van Gogh’s Café Terrace at Night was originally titled Coffeehouse in the Evening. This 1888 painting is one of the most famous works by Vincent van Gogh. The painting shows a view of a café terrace in the evening. It was painted in Arles, France and is a masterpiece of post-impressionism.
Although unsigned by the artist, the painting is described in multiple letters, leading academics to confidently verify and date the artwork.
This oil painting on canvas is also known as The Café Terrace on the Palace du Forum. Vincent van Gogh’s night café is located in Arles, a picturesque coastal town in the South of France. It was Van Gogh’s home from 1888 to 1889. During his time in Arles, Van Gogh created over 300 individual drawings and paintings. He also invited Paul Gauguin to live with him in the town, in an ill-fated attempt to start an artist’s commune.
Today, art lovers can visit the exact spot where Van Gogh painted the cafe. Refurbished in 1991, the popular coffee house was situated on the north east corner of the Place du Forum. The Rue du Palais is visible in the painting, receding into mysterious darkness.
Fascinated by the scenery of Provence, many Vincent van Gogh artworks originated near Arles. These include Bedroom in Arles (1888), Wheat Stacks in Provence (1888) and Portrait of Doctor Felix Re (1889).
During his time in Arles however, Van Gogh’s mental health deteriorated, culminating in the infamous self-mutilation of his ear. As a result of his increasingly erratic behavior, the artist spent time in the Old Hospital of Arles, not far away from his shining café.
When Van Gogh’s condition did not improve, the town’s residents petitioned for his admittance at a nearby mental asylum. This was the Saint-Paul Asylum at Saint-Rémy-de-Provence where Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night emerged.
Van Gogh painted Cafe Terrace at Night during a period of declining mental health. He spoke to his brother Theo of his “terrible need” for religion which prompted him to paint people and stars at night.
The coffeehouse would have been familiar to Van Gogh, reflecting his everyday reality in Arles. Indeed, in October 1888, the artist wrote to his friend, the Belgian painter Eugène Boch. He told Boch he’d painted the cafe “where we used to go” together.
Intriguingly, Vincent van Gogh’s Café Terrace at Night also represents industrial advancements made in France at the time. Gas-powered street lighting was only recently installed in Arles. These developments clearly fascinated him, with new possibilities for illuminating the colors of night.
Van Gogh wrote about the painting on three separate occasions. Soon after finishing the work, he penned a missive to his sister about a new painting depicting “the outside of a caffe in the evening”.
Van Gogh described the small figures drinking, huge yellow street-light and even the building, pavement and cobblestones in great detail. He also spoke of how he “enormously enjoyed painting on the spot at night” and reveled in the rich glows of the street lamps.
In the same letter, Van Gogh mentions Bel Ami, a novel written by Henri Maupassant. He mentions the writer's description of “lighted cafes” on the streets of Paris. Whilst Van Gogh felt it was “something like” his painting, Maupassant never described a starry-sky in the scene.
Subsequent astronomical research confirmed Van Gogh’s constellations accurately reflected the stars of September 1888. As a result, the painting is precisely dated to 16-17 September.
Van Gogh’s painting, The Cafe Terrace on the Place du Forum, is currently held by the Kröller-Müller Museum, located in the small village of Otterlo, Netherlands.
Vincent van Gogh paintings are recongised for their use of bold colors, dramatic expressive brushstrokes and impasto painting.
van Gogh is considered the greatest post-impressionist artist of all time but he lived a life of poverty and mental ill health. It is said that in a 10 year period he painted around 900 paintings although he only sold one painting during his short life.
In 1886 van Gogh went to Paris to live with his brother Theo van Gogh who was an art dealer. Whilst in Paris van Gogh became familiar with the new art movements of the time and he was greatly influenced by the work of the Impressionists artists and Japanese printmakers. Vincent van Gogh oil paintings display a reverence for Japanese art which is apparent in paintings such as Flowering Plum Orchard after Hiroshige 1887 and The Courtesan after Eisen 1887.
During the summer of 1888 van Gogh left Paris for southern France and whilst in Provence he painted scenes of Wheatfields, Cypress Trees, peasants and rustic life characteristic of the region. It was when he was living in Arles that he began to use the swirling brush strokes and intense yellows, greens, and blues which we now associate with so many of his paintings.
All of our Van Gogh reproductions on canvas employ the impasto technique introduced by Van Gogh and which is seen in the majority of his paintings.
Van Gogh persuaded Paul Gauguin, whom he had met earlier in Paris to join him in Arles. It was a volatile friendship with one argument culminating in the now famous quarrel in which van Gogh wildly threatened Gauguin with a razor; the same night, in deep remorse, van Gogh cut off part of his own ear.
Van Gogh spent a year in the nearby Asylum of Saint-Remy but continued to paint between repeated spells of mental ill health. Vincent van Gogh's most famous painting The Starry Night 1899. The Starry Night 1899, was painted whilst he was in the Asylum, and depicts the view from his hospital room.
Starry Night over the Rhone was painted in 1888 and is another nighttime painting which was completed at Arles. This scene was just a short walk from The Yellow House at the Place Lamartine a Vincent van Gogh oil painting also completed in 1888.
On July 27 1890, shortly after completing Wheatfields with Crows Vincent shot himself and died two days later at the age of 37.
Famous van Gogh paintings include Irises 1889, The Cafe Terrace at Night. Vincent van Gogh Sunflowers, Vase With Twelve Sunflowers of which there are 12 in the series were painted in Arles during 1888 and 1889; Vase with Fifteen Sunflowers was sold at auction and set a record price for any artwork at that time.
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