Cafe Terrace at Night
|Artist||Vincent van Gogh|
|Type||Oil on canvas|
|Dimensions||80.7 cm × 65.3 cm (31.8 in × 25.7 in)|
|Location||Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo|
Café Terrace at Night, also known as The Cafe Terrace on the Place du Forum, is a coloured oil painting executed by the Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh on an industrially primed canvas of size 25 (Toile de 25 figure) in Arles, France, mid-September 1888. The painting is not signed, but described and mentioned by the artist in his letters on various occasions. There is also a large pen drawing of the composition which originates from the artist's estate.
Visitors of the site can still stand at the northeastern corner of the Place du Forum, where the artist set up his easel. He looked south towards the artificially lit terrace of the popular coffee house, as well as into the enforced darkness of the rue du Palais leading up to the building structure (to the left, not pictured) and, beyond this structure, the tower of a former church (now Musée Lapidaire). Towards the right, Van Gogh indicated a lighted shop as well, and some branches of the trees surrounding the place—but he omitted the remainders of the Roman monuments just beside this little shop.
After finishing Café Terrace at Night, Van Gogh wrote a letter to his sister expressing his enthusiasm:
I was only interrupted by my work on a new painting representing the exterior of a night café. On the terrace there are small figures of people drinking. An immense yellow lantern illuminates the terrace, the facade, the side walk and even casts light on the paving stones of the road which take a pinkish violet tone. The gables of the houses, like a fading road below a blue sky studded with stars, are dark blue or violet with a green tree. Here you have a night painting without black, with nothing but beautiful blue and violet and green and in this surrounding the illuminated area colours itself sulfur pale yellow and citron green. It amuses me enormously to paint the night right on the spot. Normally, one draws and paints the painting during the daytime after the sketch. But I like to paint the thing immediately. It is true that in the darkness I can take a blue for a green, a blue lilac for a pink lilac, since it is hard to distinguish the quality of the tone. But it is the only way to get away from our conventional night with poor pale whitish light, while even a simple candle already provides us with the richest of yellows and oranges.
When exhibited for the first time, in 1892, the painting was entitled Coffeehouse, in the evening (Café, le soir).
This is the first painting in which he used starry backgrounds; he went on to paint star-filled skies in Starry Night Over the Rhone (painted the same month), and the better known Starry Night a year later. Van Gogh also painted a starlight background in Portrait of Eugène Boch. Van Gogh mentioned the Cafe Terrace painting in a letter written to Eugène Boch on October 2, 1888.
In popular culture
The painting and the café were both featured in "Vincent and the Doctor" (2010), the tenth episode in the fifth series of British science fiction television series Doctor Who. A café in Croatia was redesigned to look like the café in the painting.
- The site was refurbished in 1990/91 to replicate Van Gogh's painting.
- Letter (in French) (English translation) from Vincent van Gogh to Wilhelmina van Gogh, Arles, 9 and 16 September 1888. Accessed 1 May 2006.
- Letter to Eugene Boch mentionning the Cafe Terrace
- "A Brush with Genius". Doctor Who Confidential. Series 5. Episode 10. 5 June 2010. BBC. BBC Three.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Cafe Terrace at Night.|
- The Vincent van Gogh Gallery entry about Cafe Terrace at Night.