Art & History

The Night Café | Vincent van Gogh – Painting & Facts

The Night Café (French: Le Café de nuit) is an oil painting created by Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh in September 1888 in Arles. Its title is inscribed lower right beneath the signature. The painting is owned by Yale University and is currently held at the Yale University Art Gallery in New Haven, Connecticut.

The interior depicted is the Café de la Gare, 30 Place Lamartine, run by Joseph-Michel Ginoux and his wife Marie, who in November 1888 posed for Van Gogh’s and Gauguin’s Arlésienne; a bit later, Joseph Ginoux evidently posed for both artists, too.

It depicts the interior of the cafe, with a half-curtained doorway in the center background leading, presumably, to more private quarters. Five customers sit at tables along the walls to the left and right, and a waiter in a light coat, to one side of a billiard table near the center of the room, stands facing the viewer.

FACTS

FACTS

  • Vincent Van Gogh also produced a watercolor version of Night Café to send to his brother, Theo.

 Night Café

 

  • In another letter to Theo, Van Gogh acknowledged the disturbing nature of the painting, but felt that this was, in fact, why the work was successful:

    The idea of the “The Sower” continues to haunt me all the time. Exaggerated studies like the “Sower” and like this “Night Café” usually seem to me atrociously ugly and bad, but when I am moved by something, as now by this little article on Dostoievsky, then these are the only ones which appear to have any deep meaning.

    Letter 535
    9 September 1888

     

  • As a general rule, Van Gogh only signed the works that he felt were the most well executed. In the lower right corner of this painting Van Gogh wrote “Vincent le café de nuit“.
  • He painted this work in a flurry, using many of the same techniques he employed in his drawings. This is one of his most beautiful paintings, full of the light and peace he sought, but never found.

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