Café Terrace at Night, also known as The Cafe Terrace on the Place du Forum, is an oil painting executed by the Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh on an industrially primed canvas of size 25 (Toile de 25 figure) in Arles, France, mid September 1888. The painting is not signed, but described and mentioned by the artist in his letters on various occasions—and, as well, there is a large pen drawing of the composition which originates from the artist’s estate.Still today, visitors of the site can take the place at the north eastern corner of the Place du Forum where the artist set up his easel. He looked south towards the artificially lighted terrace of the popular coffee house as well as into the enforced darkness of the rue du Palais leading up to the building structure far back comprising the town house (to the left, not pictured) and, beyond this structure, the tower of a former church (now Musée lapidaire). Towards the right, Van Gogh indicated a shop lighted as well, and some branches of the trees surrounding the place—but he omitted the remainders of the roman monuments just aside this little shop.
The painting is currently at the Kröller-Müller Museum in Otterlo, Netherlands.
After finishing Café Terrace at Night, Van Gogh wrote a letter to his sister expressing his enthusiasm:
I was only interrupted by my work on a new painting representing the exterior of a night café. On the terrace there are small figures of people drinking. An immense yellow lantern illuminates the terrace, the facade, the side walk and even casts light on the paving stones of the road which take a pinkish violet tone. The gables of the houses, like a fading road below a blue sky studded with stars, are dark blue or violet with a green tree. Here you have a night painting without black, with nothing but beautiful blue and violet and green and in this surrounding the illuminated area colours itself sulfur pale yellow and citron green. It amuses me enormously to paint the night right on the spot. Normally, one draws and paints the painting during the daytime after the sketch. But I like to paint the thing immediately. 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.
an Gogh used glass paint on canvas and the painting is 87 × 69 cm (32″ × 26″).
When exhibited for the first time, in 1892, the painting was entitled Coffeehouse, in the evening (Café, le soir
This is the first painting in which he used starry backgrounds. He went on to paint star filled skies in Starry Night Over the Rhone, painted the same month, and the better known Starry Night a year later. Also, in Portrait of Eugene Boch Van Gogh painted a starlight background.
The site was refurbished in 1990/91 to look exactly as on the picture of van Gogh
Letter (in French) (English translation) from Vincent van Gogh to Wilhelmina van Gogh, Arles, 9 and 16 September 1888. Accessed 1 May 2006.