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Joy of Museums

Museums, Art Galleries and Historical Sites

“The Night Café” by Vincent van Gogh

The Night Café by Vincent van Gogh

“The Night Café” by Vincent van Gogh

“The Night Café” by Vincent van Gogh depicts the interior of Café de la Gare, in Arles. Five customers are sitting at tables, and a waiter in a light coat is standing and facing the viewer.  A half-curtained doorway in the centre background is leading to the private quarters.  The title of this painting is inscribed lower right beneath the signature. In highly contrasting and vivid colours, the paint is applied thickly, with the perspective leading toward the door in the back.

Van Gogh stayed up for three consecutive nights to paint the picture, sleeping during the day. Van Gogh wrote to his brother about the Café:

“… staying open all night. “Night prowlers” can take refuge there when they have no money to pay for a lodging or are too drunk to be taken in. ”

Van Gogh depicted very few café scenes but his most famous is “Cafe Terrace at Night” showing outdoor tables, a street scene and the night sky, which was also painted in Arles at about the same period in his life.

Vincent van Gogh

Vincent Willem van Gogh is among the most famous and influential figures in the history of Western art. Van Gogh was unsuccessful during his lifetime and was considered a madman and a failure. He created about 2,100 artworks, including around 860 oil paintings, most of them in the last two years of his life. They were characterised by bold colours and dramatic, impulsive and expressive brushwork that contributed to the foundations of modern art.

Exploring Vincent van Gogh

Reflections

  • It took Van Gogh three nights to complete this picture. What do you think the subjects in this picture thought of the painter?
  • Van Gogh used this painting to settle debts with the landlord depicted standing in the picture. If only the landlord knew the future?
  • Is it hard to believe that this art was created 130 years ago?
  • What do you think of Van Gogh’s use of colour and perspective in this painting?
  • What time is depicted in this painting?
  • How do you think Van Gogh felt about this place?
  • What do you see?

The Night Cafe

  • Title:                The Night Café
  • French:            Le Café de nuit
  • Artist:              Vincent van Gogh
  • Year:                1888
  • Medium:         Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions     72.4 × 92.1 cm (28.5 × 36.3 in)
  • Museum:         Yale University Art Gallery

Vincent van Gogh

Facts about Vincent van Gogh

  • Van Gogh was born in the Netherlands
  • Initially, van Gogh planned to be a pastor and worked as a lay preacher in Belgium. It was only on being let go from this job that he decided that his future lay in painting.
  • Van Gogh didn’t start painting until he was 27 years old.
  • Van Gogh never received any formal art training.
  • Van Gogh’s brother, Theo, worked in an art gallery and introduced van Gogh to many artworks.
  • Van Gogh visited many parts of Europe including Netherlands, France, Belgium and England.
  • Japanese woodblock prints profoundly influenced Van Gogh. He collected pictures of Japanese woodblock prints, and he practised making copies.
  • Van Gogh had several close relationships with many fellow artists, including Paul Gaugin and Emile Bernard.
  • Van Gogh artistic career was only ten years.
  • Van Gogh was a prolific letter writer, especially to his brother.
  • He created over 900 paintings plus many more drawings and sketches.
  • He died at the age of 37
  • As a poor artist, van Gogh didn’t have money to pay for models, so he painted himself instead. He created hundreds of self-portraits.
  • Van Gogh considered himself and many of his paintings to be failures.
  • Van Gogh cut off his own ear in 1888.
  • Experts believe that that Gaugin cut off Van Gogh’s ear, following a violent dispute and that they both conspired to blame it on van Gogh so that Gaugin would not be jailed.
  • Van Gogh wrapped up his removed ear and gave it to a prostitute in a nearby brothel.
  • Van Gogh suffered mental health challenges for many years, and in 1889 he voluntarily admitted himself to a psychiatric hospital in Saint-Rémy.
  • Van Gogh spent a year in the hospital, from which he created some of his most well-known paintings.
  • Van Gogh spent his adult life in poverty, surviving on cheap food. His diet consisted mainly of bread and coffee, he drank alcohol excessively and always had his pipe in hand.
  • After leaving the asylum, Van Gogh’s mental health continued to deteriorate, and in 1890, he shot himself in the chest. He died two days later.
  • There is speculation that Van Gogh did not shoot himself but that he was shot in a prank that went wrong. Van Gogh protected the identity of who shot him, by claiming that he shot himself.
  • Only 37 years old when he died, he had just sold one painting in his lifetime.
  • On his deathbed, van Gogh’s last words to his brother were “the sadness will last forever”.
  • Van Gogh’s brother died very soon after Van Gogh’s death.

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“The best way to know God is to love many things.”
– Vincent van Gogh

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Photo Credit: 1) Vincent van Gogh [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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