The Night Cafe

The Night Cafe

I’ve just finished a canvas of a café interior at night, lit by lamps. Some poor night-prowlers are sleeping in a corner. The room is painted red, and inside, in the gaslight, the green billiard table, which casts an immense shadow over the floor. In this canvas there are 6 or 7 different reds, from blood-red to delicate pink, contrasting with the same number of pale or dark greens. Today I sent Theo a drawing of it, which is like a Japanese print. To Willemien van Gogh. Arles, Sunday, 9 and about Friday, 14 September 1888
Details:
Painting Date
7th of September 1888
Detailed Image Links
Description:

The compare image is a watercolor Vincent creates of the Night Cafe around the same time as the painting.

The related images are Paul Gauguin’s interpretation of the same scene upon arriving in Arles in October of 1888 and a view from out of the front window of Vincent’s first place of stay in Arles – the Restaurant Carrel.  Gauguin will paint this scene in similar colors in November after he arrives and sees Vincent’s canvas of the “Night Cafe”.  Madame Ginoux, wife of the proprietor is depicted prominently and smiling wryly in Gaugin’s piece.

Vincent has rented the studio that will become the living quarters of he and Gauguin after he arrives in October but he is still living in a room above the Restaurant Carrell, eating there and using its facilities in exchange for rent while preparing the yellow house for Gauguin’s arrival.  He is optimistic that his dreamed of “Studio of the South” for the artists of “La Petit Boulevard” is beginning to come to fruition.  He imagines the arrival of Gauguin to precede Bernard and Anquetin, Signac and Lautrec.  They will all come to Provencal sun to paint as comrades, sharing all profits equally with Theo selling in Paris.  Vincent is experimenting with the power of complementary colors and creating moods and emotions with certain shades in close juxtaposition and using a cloissonesque technique of dark lines separating flat fields of color, like stained glass.  Vincent is endeavoring to stay away from the temptations of the night cafe of the Restaurant Carrell and the ones like it he attended in Montmartre where he feels he drank too much too regularly which contributed to his weakened state.  The painting is dark in its depiction and brilliant in its composition as Vincent is finding his away in the tricky endeavor of depicting night perspectives on canvas.

“Well, to the great delight of the lodging-house keeper, the postman whom I’ve already painted, the prowling night-visitors and myself, for 3 nights I stayed up to paint, going to bed during the day.”  To Theo. Arles, Saturday, 8 September 1888

My dear Theo,
Thank you a thousand times for your kind letter and the 300 francs it contained — after some weeks of worries I’ve just had a much better one. And just as worries don’t come singly, nor do joys, either. Because actually, always bowed down under this money problem with lodging-house keepers, I put up with it cheerfully. I’d given a piece of my mind to the said lodging-house keeper who isn’t a bad man after all, and I’d told him that to get my own back on him for having paid him so much money for nothing, I’d paint his whole filthy old place as a way of getting my money back. Well, to the great delight of the lodging-house keeper, the whom I’ve already painted, the prowling night-visitors and myself, for 3 nights I stayed up to paint, going to bed during the day. It often seems to me that the night is much more alive and richly coloured than the day. Now as for recovering the money paid to the landlord through my painting, I’m not making a point of it, because the painting is one of the ugliest I’ve done. It’s the equivalent, though different, of the potato eaters
I’ve tried to express the terrible human passions with the red and the green.
The room is blood-red and dull yellow, a green billiard table in the centre, 4 lemon yellow lamps with an orange and green glow. Everywhere it’s a battle and an antithesis of the most different greens and reds; in the characters of the sleeping ruffians, small in the empty, high room, some purple and blue. The blood-red and the yellow-green of the billiard table, for example, contrast with the little bit of delicate Louis XV green of the counter, where there’s a pink bouquet.
The white clothes of the owner, watching over things from a corner in this furnace, become lemon yellow, pale luminous green.
I’m making a drawing of it in watercolour tones to send you tomorrow, to give you an idea of it.  to theo, sep 8, 1888
“Now the other room, I would like it almost elegant, with a walnut bed with a blue blanket. And all the rest, the dressing-table and the chest of drawers too, in matt walnut. I want to stuff at least 6 very large canvases into this tiny little room, the way the Japanese do, especially the huge bouquets of sunflowers. You know that the Japanese instinctively look for contrasts, and eat sweetened peppers, salty sweets, and fried ices and frozen fried dishes. So, too, following the same system you should probably only put very small paintings in a large room, but in a very small room you’ll put a lot of big ones.  I hope the day will come when I’ll be able to show you this beautiful part of the world.

I’ve just finished a canvas of a café interior at night, lit by lamps. Some poor night-prowlers are sleeping in a corner. The room is painted red, and inside, in the gaslight, the green billiard table, which casts an immense shadow over the floor. In this canvas there are 6 or 7 different reds, from blood-red to delicate pink, contrasting with the same number of pale or dark greens. Today I sent Theo a drawing of it, which is like a Japanese print.  Theo wrote telling me that he has given you some Japanese prints. It’s certainly the most practical way of getting to understand the direction that painting has taken at present. Colourful and bright.  For myself, I don’t need Japanese prints here, because I’m always saying to myself that I’m in Japan here. That as a result I only have to open my eyes and paint right in front of me what makes an impression on me.”

To Willemien van Gogh. Arles, Sunday, 9 and about Friday, 14 September 1888

 

 

 

Painting, Oil on Canvas – 70 x 89 cm, Size 30 figure

Arles: September 7, 1888
Yale University Art Gallery
New Haven, Connecticut, United States of America, North America
F: 463, JH: 1575

Where Vincent Was:
Arles

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