The Charm of the Colourful Outdoor View
Hi everyone! For my homework I got a task to describe any painting I want. I’d like to write about the painting “Café Terrace at Night” by Vincent van Gogh, one of the most-renowned post-impressionism artists. It was painted in Arles,France in September 1888. The painting is made with oil paints on canvas and measures 81 × 65.5 cm. Today it is kept in the Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo (the Netherlands).
This was the very first of a series of paintings in which he used starry backgrounds – for which a night sky is essential. “The Café Terrace at Night” was painted much before “Starry Night“. In fact, it was the first in a series of paintings to capture the night sky in the brilliance of Van Gogh’s colors.
An interesting feature is that when writing a picture, the artist did not use a single gram of black paint, and yet he managed to masterfully depict the night sky and the extraordinary radiance of the stars.
“The Café Terrace at Night” is a cityscape. The architecture in the painting provides a strong sense of perspective. Vincent van Gogh illustrates the night city covered with an amazing dark sky.
In the painting “Café Terrace at Night” there is no central object or character – and therefore it is perceived as a whole. Directly ahead of us, on the left-hand side of the painting, we see the café terrace, lit up by a gas lamp. There are over ten tables and chairs placed on the terrace with numerous figures sitting around the tables near the back end. In the center of the terrace, there is a figure standing and what appears to be a figure walking into the building through a wide doorway.
The artist managed to capture the atmosphere of a night café and the mood of the moment.
The painting features striking colors, as you might expect from van Gogh. Bright yellows and oranges against deep blues and greens. There’s a strong contrast between the bright yellow and white stars and the rich blue sky. It mimics the contrast in the foreground of the bright yellow and orange café against the cool blue and green surroundings.
Vincent Van Gogh painted on location at night. I’m not sure if you have tried painting at night, but it’s a logistical nightmare. It’s hard to see what you’re painting. The colors on your palette look different. Reds don’t look like reds, yellows don’t look like yellows. Van Gogh acknowledged this challenge in a letter to his sister and explained it was the only way he could faithfully capture the night’s brilliance.
I’d also like to notice Van Gogh’s dynamic brushstrokes, which enhance the nightly life of the composition. His brushstrokes also follow the line and shape he painted, for example, for the more horizontal shapes, there are horizontal brushstrokes, and similarly so for the vertical lines and shapes.
The painting is also known as “The Café Terrace on the Place du Forum”. When first exhibited in 1891, it was originally called “Coffeehouse in the Evening”. There are more people featured in “Café Terrace at Night” than in any other Van Gogh’s paintings. On a simple level, the painting demonstrates Van Gogh’s love for the famous café culture of France and especially Paris, where people could gather together, talk and perhaps even share thoughts and ideas.
To my mind, the picture is fascinating! Van Gogh conveyed a cozy nighttime atmosphere. The contrasting colors of the nightsky make the picture very beautiful and this is the highlight of the painting.