Cafe Terrace at Night

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Template:Infobox Artwork 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 three letters. 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.

The painting is currently at the Kröller-Müller Museum in Otterlo, Netherlands.


After finishing Café Terrace at Night, Van Gogh wrote a letter to his sister expressing his enthusiasm:


He continues, in this same letter, Template:Quote

File:Cafe Terrace Arles.jpg
The café terrace, now Café Van Gogh, October 2003

This excerpt forms the basis of the Van Gogh Museum's curators' opinion that the painting is a depiction "of drinkers in the harsh, bright lights of their illuminated facades" from Maupassant's novel Bel Ami, however, they also note that Maupassant makes no mention of a 'starry sky.'

In 1981, Bogomila Welsh-Ovcharov argued that since it “displays not only a night scene but also a funnel-like perspective and dominant blue-yellow tonality” it was at least partially inspired by Louis Anquetin's Avenue de Clichy: 5 o'clock in the evening.

An academic paper presented at IAFOR's 2013 European Conference on Arts & Humanities, however, advanced the theory that van Gogh intended the painting to be a uniquely innovated Last Supper. The paper was subsequently published by The Art Histories Society in the January, 2014 Art History Supplement.

Briefly, the paper examines the myriad artistic influences van Gogh was parsing the summer of 1888: his lifelong devotion to and imitation of Jesus Christ; synthesizing Japonism and Cloisonnism with his own plein air techniques; colorizing Jean-François Millet's pious genre scenes with Eugène Delacroix's luminous palette (see Boats du Rhône); "search-for-sacred-realism" correspondence with his artist friend Émile Bernard; Thomas Carlyle and Boccaccio's examples of dressing old ideas in new clothes; an Émile Burnouf article claiming Buddhist missionaries sowed the seeds Essenes later reaped as Christianity; failed attempts creating his own Christ in the Garden of Olives; two proximal Last Supper studies (Interior of a Restaurant in Arles and Interior of the Restaurant Carrel in Arles) featuring straw-bottomed chairs he'd just purchased by the dozen (hoping to start a commune of twelve "artist-apostles" at his Yellow House); culminating with his composition of twelve diners drenched in a yellow halo surrounding a Rembrandtesque server framed by a crucifix at the vanishing point of the picture; it's concluded his original starry night is a Symbolist's Last Supper.

Although van Gogh never explicitly mentioned his intent in any existing letter, he did write his brother Theo two weeks later, "That doesn't stop me having a terrible need for - dare I say the word - for religion. So I go outside at night to paint the stars and I always dream a painting like that with a group of living figures of the pals."

Night effects

When exhibited for the first time, in 1891, 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, writing he had painted "a view of the café on place du Forum, where we used to go, painted at night" (emphasis van Gogh's).

In popular culture

The painting and the café were both featured in the 1956 film Lust for Life starring Kirk Douglas and later 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.



External links

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  • The Vincent van Gogh Gallery entry about Cafe Terrace at Night.
  • Discover van Gogh [1] explores the Last Supper theory further.

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