"Night Cafe in Arles" by Vincent Van Gogh


Vincent van Gogh was a Dutch post-impressionist painter who is widely regarded as one of the most influential artists of the 20th century. He was known for his bold use of color and his ability to capture raw emotion in his paintings. Night Cafe in Arles is a prime example of van Gogh's artistic style. The painting depicts a dimly-lit cafe in Arles, France, with a pool table, a few patrons, and a bartender. The colors used in the painting are dark and warm, creating a cozy but eerie atmosphere that invites the viewer to explore the scene. Van Gogh's interpretation of the night cafe is said to reflect his own personal struggles with loneliness and depression. The dim lighting and empty space in the painting evoke a sense of isolation and melancholy. However, some art critics believe that the painting also reflects van Gogh's optimism and hope for the future.

In a letter to his brother, Van Gogh wrote the following of this painting: 

I have tried to express the terrible passions of humanity by means of red and green. The room is blood red and dark yellow with a green billiard table in the middle; there are four lemon-yellow lamps with a glow of orange and green. Everywhere there is a clash and contrast of the most alien reds and greens, in the figures of little sleeping hooligans, in the empty dreary room, in violet and blue. The blood-red and the yellow-green of the billiard table, for instance, contrast with the soft tender Louis XV green of the counter, on which there is a rose nosegay. The white clothes of the landlord, watchful in a corner of that furnace, turn lemon-yellow, or pale luminous green.

Reflection Questions

  1. How does van Gogh use color in Night Cafe in Arles to convey emotion and mood?
  2. What effect does the dim lighting and empty space in the painting have on the viewer?
  3. What does the presence of the pool table, patrons, and bartender in the painting suggest about the setting and atmosphere of the night cafe?
  4. How does van Gogh's personal struggles with loneliness and depression influence his interpretation of the night cafe?

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