Art Travel Guide

Vincent Van Gogh’s Cafe Terrace – Get lost in bright yellows and deep blues

It was a clear night in September 1888, on a small southern village in France. A starry indigo sky contrasted with an immense yellow light from a boulangerie, casting light on the sidewalk and the paving stones on the road. Vincent Van Gogh – the Dutch in love with sunflowers and starry nights – had to interrupt his intense work to capture that moment. He painted on the spot, a night picture with nothing but light.

This distraction happened in Arles, at the Cafe Terrace on the Place du Forum. The result is one of the most famous Van Gogh’s paintings. A canvas where he perfected the idea of natural and artificial light through complementary contrasts, dabs of white and discrete pale green reflections.

Vincent Van Gogh's Cafe Terrace

In a letter to one of his sisters, he describes a night painting without black; with nothing but blue, violet and green, along with pale yellow and citron green to express the light. “It amuses me enormously to paint the night right on the spot.” – he wrote – “(…) It is true that in the darkness I can take a blue for a green, a blue lilac for a pink lilac, since it is hard to distinguish the quality of the tone. But it is the only way to get away from our conventional night with poor pale whitish light, while even a simple candle already provides us with the richest of yellows and oranges.”

Today, more than a century later, not only the original painting attracts many visitors to the Kröller-Müller Museum, in the Netherlands; people from all over the world also look for that bright yellow cafe in Place Lamartine. Even though is not the authentic establishment, is has become a lovely touristic attraction known as Café La Nuit; Café Le Soir; Café Terrace and – of course – Café Van Gogh. After the original was bombed during the WWII (and other businesses in between), a boulangerie was rebuilt between late 80’s/early 90’s to take its place. It is greater for its magic rather than an exceptional service; however the bright façade, the enormous seafood paella outside and a reproduction of Van Gogh’s Café Le Soir make it practically irresistible to look out for a seat at the esplanade. It is the kind of venue one wants to walk past and remember; trying to get the feel of it just as Vincent Van Gogh did. A soul full of passion, lost in the ambitions of bright yellow and deep blue.

About the Author

Teresa is a writer with a twist of design and art. She is addicted to dancing, laughter, cherries and random words in cool typography. Plans to fly, run on water, find a dragon and sleep with tigers before she dies. And change the world, of course.