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The Night Café, 1888

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Artist Van Gogh, Vincent Willem

This famous painting was executed in September 1888, when van Gogh, having abandoned Paris, was living in Arles in the south of France. The artist slept during the day and worked three consecutive nights while completing the picture of Café de l'Alcazar, an all-night haunt that he knew quite well. The glare of gaslight permeates the space. Local down-and-outs and prostitutes are depicted slouched at tables and drinking together at the far end of the room, absorbed in their individual loneliness and despair, which is bitterly contrasted with the shocking colors of the billiard table, wine bottles, and glasses.

After failing as a preacher and a picture dealer, Van Gogh settled upon a career of painting. In his brother Theo, a Paris art dealer, he found a lifelong food angel who supported him financially and kept Vincent’s sagging spirits up. Theo brought him to Paris and introduced him to the Impressionist circle whose brilliant colours and fresh angels of vision transformed his art from the sombreness and conservatism of his Dutch period. The new impact of the Impressionist palette is apparent in The Night Café. Van Gogh has gone beyond his contemporaries, however, even while retaining their freedom; he has given colour a new emotional and personal impact. The artist described the disturbing symbolism of this painting thus: “ I have tried to express the terrible passions of humanity by means of red and green.”




Institution Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut
Medium Oil on canvas
Dimensions 72.4 x 92.1 cm













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