Café Terrace at Night—Everything You Need To Know

Café Terrace at Night was one of the first nocturnal scenes painted by Van Gogh at the time of his stay in Arles. This raises a lot of questions for most people who are looking at it, from how it was made to what kind of meaning it is supposed to represent.

Cafe Terrace at Night by Vincent van Gogh

Who Painted Café Terrace at Night?

Café Terrace at Night is a part of a series of masterful paintings crafted by the famous Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh. Van Gogh suffered from a series of catastrophic love failures, which played a key role in aggravating his lifelong mental illness. His only respite used to come from taking in the scenery around him and applying them onto canvas.

During one of the brief spells where he was actually able to paint, he created Café Terrace at Night, one of his most remarkable pieces of art produced during his short career.

Which other names are there for Café Terrace at Night?

Café Terrace at Night has several other names – “The Café Terrace on the Place du Forum” in English, and "Terrasse du café le soir", also known as "Terrasse de café au place du Forum" in French and "Café Terras" in Dutch.

The reason why this oil painting is also referred to as “on the Place du Forum” is because this is the area where The Café Terrace was located and thus where Van Gogh painted this particular piece.

An interesting but little known fact is that during its first official display in 1891, this painting was named “Coffee House, in the Evening” or Café, le soir. The current title came to replace it much later.

Where was Café Terrace at Night painted?

Café Terrace at Night was painted overlooking the popular Café Terrace at The Place du Forum, in Arles, a quaint village in the South of France. The Place du Forum in Arles was developed as the historical city center as was the case in many other roman cities of yore.

If you visit Arles, make your way to the northeastern corner of the Place du Forum and face south towards Café Terrace (now aptly renamed Café Van Gogh) – which is where Van Gogh set up his easel to begin this masterpiece.

When was Café Terrace at Night painted?

Van Gogh whilst at Arles, France, painted the Café Terrace at Night in mid-September 1888. This was the period when Van Gogh moved to the village of Arles, attracted by its seeming similarity of light to that found in Japan.

This period of his time is fondly remembered as the Arles period. Van Gogh was considered to be at his creative best during this part of his life. As a matter of fact, many of Van Gogh’s most famous art were created during his stay in Arles.

How was Café Terrace at Night painted?

Van Gogh set up his easel at the northeastern corner of the Place du Forum facing south towards the lantern lit terrace of a popular coffee house – The Café Terrace. An industrially primed canvas of the size 25 was used to execute the Café Terrace at Night.

Van Gogh uses a lot of contrasting colors and tones for this painting bringing in a pulse of colors that defy the darkening night sky. The brushstrokes all along the painting are even today reminiscent of Van Gogh’s sense of thrill and rapture as he painted the Café Terrace at Night that evening.

How much is Café Terrace at Night worth?

The market, which trades in Van Gogh art, is generally very subdued – though there is a record-breaking sale now and then. Many years may see as few as a dozen to about thirty paintings move patrons or museums.

This is not because Van Gogh painted very few works of art. His estimated collection of work included approximately 875 paintings and 1100 drawings. More so, it seems like those who owned Van Gogh art preferred to cherish their lives alongside it.

The Café Terrace at Night is a priceless work of art.

Why is  Café Terrace at Night not signed?

The Café Terrace at Night was not signed by Van Gogh. Rather, it was described plentifully in three letters on different occasions. One of these letters was to his sister, Willemina Jacoba Van Gogh, the other was to his brother Theo Van Gogh, and the third was to Eugene Boch.

There also exists a large pen drawing of the composition found as part of the artist’s estate. Thus though this painting does not contain his own signature, his letters prove that he created this work of art.

Does Café Terrace at Night still exist?

The Café Terrace at Night still exists and can be found at the Kröller-Müller Museum in Otterlo, Netherlands, home to the second largest collection of Van Gogh paintings.

The original Café Terrace, which inspired this painting, also still exists at Place du Forum, Arles at the very same place where Van Gogh painted this masterpiece. However, it now goes by the name Café Van Gogh, and has become a sort of a mecca for Van Gogh fans.

Why was Café Terrace at Night painted at night?

This was the very first of a series of paintings in which he used starry backgrounds – for which a night sky is essential. His stargazing was a result of Van Gogh’s newfound attraction to religion. Religion seemed to fill the vacuum of love.

Although a reason was explicitly never mentioned, in a letter to Theo, his brother, he says "That doesn't stop me having a terrible need for - dare I say the word - for religion. So I go outside at night to paint the stars and I always dream a painting like that with a group of living figures of the pals."

Was Café Terrace at Night painted before or after Starry Night?

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.

Over a period of time, he went on to paint other star studded skies, such as “Starry Night over the Rhone”, and the very famous “Starry Night” itself. The better-known “Starry Night” was painted a year later.

In which museum is Café Terrace at Night”?

The Café Terrace at Night can be found at the Kröller-Müller Museum in Otterlo, Netherlands, home to the second largest collection of Van Gogh paintings. Situated in the Hoge Veluwe National Park in Otterlo, the Kröller-Müller Museum is Netherland’s national art museum and sculpture garden.

Founded by art collector Helene Kröller-Müller and opened in 1938, it has the second largest collection of Van Gogh art, after the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.

Was Café Terrace at Night inspired by Avenue de Clichy: Five O’clock in the Evening by Anquetin?

The starry night sky in this painting is said to have been inspired by Louis Anquetin’s Avenue de Clichy: Five O’clock in the Evening.

This is surmised from Bogomila Welsh-Ovcharov’s argument in 1981 that since it "displays not only a night scene but also a funnel-like perspective and dominant blue-yellow tonality", the Avenue de Clichy does in fact serve at least partially an inspiration to Van Gogh’s Café Terrace at Night.

Louis Anquetin Avenue de Clichy: Five O'clock in the Evening

Why is the Cafe Terrace interesting?

Painted in a typical Cloissonist style, the myriad subjects in the composition are painted flat and elegant outlines in black coerce the artwork.

What makes the painting really interesting for the discerning art patron is its huge borrowed influence of all things Japanese.

There is a definitive influence of Japanese woodcuts in this painting as evidenced by the author Frederic Destremau, “the iron and glass awning… suggests the roof of a pagoda”, “the legs… recall Japanese lanterns”, “the elegant woman… drawn in a very Japoniste style”.

Is Café Terrace at Night for sale?

Rather sadly for Café Terrace at Night aficionados, the painting is presently not for sale. However the painting can be viewed at the Kröller-Müller Museum in Otterlo, Netherlands.

Considering the popularity of the painting and the café that inspired it, a sale would definitely generate interest in Van Gogh communities around the world.

However, the painting remains unavailable for sale at its current home in the Kröller-Müller Museum.  

Your Daily Dose of Van Gogh

What did Vincent van Gogh write on this day?

Find out in your FREE Van Gogh e-book.

Hundreds of questions answered by Van Gogh himself!

Free Van Gogh e-book
    21-12-2016 12:44     Comments ( 7 )
Comments (7)
 max jan koenders -  15-05-2024


 Maurits Lucas Kattenberg -  15-05-2024

super slecht

 Bella -  15-02-2022

they are so nice

 Bella -  15-02-2022

I do love his paintings

 Manik Bal -  27-02-2021

Brothers Sen Gogh - A mashup between the Van Gogh Brother story and Indie Music scnee in Mumbai Hi, I thought you might be interested in my new book that is heavily inspired by the Van Gogh Brothers' story. Here is a brief blurb below. Please let me know if you are interested in reading and probably featuring on your site and I can send you a review copy by email. Thanks in advance, --- Manik Bal Inspired by the brotherly love of Vincent and Theo Van Gogh, Brothers Sen Gogh ruminates about the pains of a sensitive soul, the inability of society to identify artistic talent and the heartbreaking tragedy of a flawed brotherly relationship. Soubhik Sengupta is an indie musician with emotional fragility. Sourav Sengupta is an indie music producer who is unable to launch his brother.  Will their life follow the script of the life of Van Gogh brothers? Will Soubhik be appreciated for his talent? Will he find his lady love? Will Sourav be able to convince people of Soubhik’s talent? Who is Prashant, who calls himself the modern Gauguin? Will Indrani be able to leave her checkered past to lead a family life with Soubhik? With their life script following the brothers separated by one and half centuries, Brothers Sen Gogh is a journey into the real nature of artistic freedom, the intricate relationship between talent and destructive sensitivity, struggle of the life of an indie musician and the perils of an alternate life. Traveling in the bylanes of Mumbai, the story tracks the tragic lives of the Sengupta brothers as they try and build an alternate life following their passions.

 Frank Chen -  23-07-2020

Van Gogh is my best Favorite impressionist . I look over and over never tiredly . Life too shot 37 years for him. But creat eternally life of Art. Inference for so many generation .

 Wlliam -  14-04-2020

how many cafe terraces were painted by Van Gogh