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Café Terrace at Night

Cafe Terrace at Night Description


Cafe Terrace at Night, 1888
Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890)
Oil on canvas
26" x 32"
Rijksmuseum Kroller-Mueller, Otterlo, Netherlands

This picture was painted in 1888 when Van Gogh was living in Arles, France. This was the happiest time of his life.

Yellow was a happy color for Van Gogh.

Identify the cool colors of the night sky. Compare with the illuminated sky of Starry Night that Van Gogh painted one year after Café Terrace.

Identify the warm colors of the café. Note how the warm colors invite you into the café where there are people and where you won’t feel isolated.

Note cobblestone streets

Note tiny figures of people drinking; the man entering the café; waiter ready to take an order

Note great tables and chairs for patrons

Note horse-drawn carriage coming down the cobblestone road – remind kids how long ago this was.

Note lighted shops across the street

Note 1800’s clothing of people

Note sources of 3 types of light in picture: large yellow gas lantern illuminating the awning, the house and the street; light thru windows; light in sky

Van Gogh did not use the color black in his night sky, rather beautiful blue, violet and green. Note thick brushstrokes across the underside of the awning and in the deep green pine branches.

It is said that Van Gogh would sketch people at the café to make money. He liked to visit the café because he could socialize easily with people there.

Van Gogh painted this picture at night. He found satisfaction in painting things right on the spot. Other artists would draw and paint their pictures in the daytime after having made rough sketches.

Note the lines of composition within the picture that point directly to the center of the work where the horse and carriage are found. Everything seems to be drawn inward; however, the overall tone is tranquility and not turmoil. The overall scheme is dark, but without any trace of black.

The Café Terrace is still in Arles and is now called the Café Van Gogh. It has been remodeled to appear as it did during Van Gogh’s time. It is open to the public.

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