Cafe Terrace at Night by Vincent Van Gogh

By Tuesday, April 04, 2017 ,

Sometimes we meet people who are truly so talented that we can see greatness leaking through them. They might not have done anything amazing in their life yet, but looking at them, you just know they are going to be really successful some day. 

Cafe Terrace at Night was that painting for Van Gogh. It was the first time he painted the starry night, even if it was just for a small part of the painting. 

His world-famous painting The Starry Night and The Starry Night over Rhone was done just a year after this one. 

Why Cafe Terrace at Night is so unique

A part of the post impressionism art movement was that artists didn’t paint exactly what they saw, they used colours to express their feelings about the subject. 

Van Gogh hated the black and white colours of the night sky, and that is why he decided to paint the sky dark blue and stars in the shade of yellow. In a letter to his sister, he talked about how he did this painting in the middle of the night by setting up the isle in front of the cafe. (He spent three sleepless nights to complete this painting)

“Here you have a night painting without black, with nothing but beautiful blue and violet and green and in this surrounding the illuminated area colors itself sulfur pale yellow and citron green. It amuses me enormously to paint the night right on the spot.”

But my favourite part of the painting are the quick brushtrokes he did combined with the different shades of yellow and orange. One look at the painting and you will instantly think of that signature yellow-orangish shade that you see in colonial French quarters. (I am currently staying in a French quarter like that)

Also, if you notice more minutely, you will see the entire painting has inward lines and the centre of the painting is not the cafe but the horse carriage at the back. (You might have to zoom the painting to see that)

The cafe exists in real life

Now called 'Le Café La Nuit', the cafe still exists in the South of France and as you might expect, it is always full of Van Gogh fans. Right around Place du Forum, you can stand at the same place where Vincent set up is easel and see the same scene he painted. Definitely a bucket list location for me.

Was Cafe Terrace at Night a homage to The Last Supper by Leornardo Da Vinci?

While it might sound like a Dan Brown plot to you, many historians do believe that Van Gogh hid a secret homage to Da Vinci’s The Last Supper. 

On close inspection of Van Gogh’s painting, historians found out that the main characters include one central figure with long hairs (like Jesus) with 12 individuals and a shadow figure.

That is exact plot of The Last Supper (the shadow is Judas by the way)

While I am not sure that is true or not, I do know that Vincent was religious and he often used religious symbols in his paintings. But that’s a story for another day. 

For today, fall in love with Vincent Van Gogh’s interpretation of a French cafe and a starry night. 

What Cafe Terrace at Night means to me

It is a reminder that you have the potential in you, even when others cannot see it yet. So if you are slugging away for a dream that nobody thinks is possible, then tell them there was a time when people thought Van Gogh was a crappy artist. 

The art stayed the same, only the perspective changed. 

This post is a part of the A2Z Challenge I am doing, if you want to check all the A2Z posts, just click here

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  1. Truly Ritika.
    Agree with your interpretation. Cafe terrrace at night appeals to the romantic soul in me. Would love to visit the real cafe!

    - Anita*The Explorer Of Miracles* 'Champion Of Champions' #AtoZChallenge

    1. Me too Anita! Its truly one of my favourite pieces of art

  2. Thanks for introducing me to this amazing painting...
    Aditya Sathe C has to be for Coffee #AtoZChallenge"

  3. I have recently been studying what I can find about van Gogh. Thank you for adding your thoughts to the conversation. I found them an interesting addition to what I have already learned.

  4. now I have a new appreciation for van gogh's art especially this piece. his other work is often overshadowed by 'the starry night' but I guess that's how it is, we only remember the famous pieces.

    have a lovely day.

    Curating Beauty

    1. Thats so true Lissa. Starry is undoubtedly a masterpiece but his other paintings help us see Van Gogh's growth as an artists

  5. Again, wonderfully explained. Learning more with each day.

  6. This work by Van Gogh is truly brilliant (I need to add more words to my vocabulary which will give true justice to his work!)

    About the Dan Brown-ish theory, we can only speculate. I have a theory about it after reading your post. But I must delve deeper into Van Gogh's work before I commit to it!

    Look at me. Three posts down and I'm already acting like an art connoisseur! *hides face* *runs away* *remembers to come back tomorrow for a new art lesson*

    1. Oh. What's the theory? Now I really want to know!!!

  7. Your interpretation is inspirational... any painting with a conspiracy theory thrown in becomes so much more interesting... it is a shame Van Gogh did not achieve fame in his lifetime and the only way to know what was going on in his head are his letters....

    1. Conspiracy theory makes everything so much more interesting!

      And yeah, its a shame but that also pushed Van Gogh to paint so much. He painted more than 150 pieces in the last year of his life

  8. Do you love art? It's like not that teen kind of love but that mad aged couple who grow old together kind of love.Your interpretation of each and every painting is thought provoking. It's like oh, why didn't I see it!

    Looking forward to your next interpretation

    1. Hi Medha

      Thanks for such a sweet comment. I am not sure, its more of a sprouting relationship. Lets see where it goes :)

  9. What an awesome post. I love that painting, especially the colors, but have never delved deeper into the meaning for van Gogh. Thanks, Denise

  10. I love your last line because it is so true! This is a great work and I think he must have been in 'good" spirits when painting this due to the calmer brush stokes. I don't know if this is a version of the last supper, maybe it's just people out and enjoying themselves.

  11. David Burton-Richardson23 October 2018 at 08:27

    Can I also please say that the theory of a homage to the Last Supper is a case of overlooking for things. The Waiter seems to have some form of head gear on, maybe keeping his ears warm ?. I don't believe it to be long hair. The matter of twelve people is coincidental. The dark, shadowy figure is a play on Vincents belief that the night cafe is a dark place where you 'can go mad or committe a crime' ... As Vincent said about his Night Cafe painting.