Vincent van Gogh is one of the few artists worldwide who does not need an introduction. Today, Van Gogh’s art pieces speak for themselves, but Van Gogh never got the same recognition and fame during his lifetime.
Born on 30th March 1853 to an upper-middle-class religious family, Van Gogh had a concise artistic career, which was a mere ten years long. However, during the period as well, Van Gogh created some great paintings, which over the years, have become some of the iconic paintings of all time.
Van Gogh is credited with almost 2100 artworks, which include around 900 oil paintings- among these 900 oil paintings is the “Café Terrace at Night”. In today’s article, we will talk about “Café Terrace at Night” and reveal five secrets about the painting that most people do not know about.
Café Terrace at Night by Vincent van Gogh
Featuring a breathtaking magical view of a quaint street in the lovely evening hours in Paris, Van Gogh created Café Terrace at Night, the most famous Vincent van Gogh artwork, in 1888. Amidst the beauty of Paris, the painting portrays an elusive sense of charm and mystique that only becomes more radiant at night.
The most striking feature of the painting surely has to be the contrast between the warm yellow and green colors under the marquise and the deep blue of the starry background. The dark blue of the houses in the background also reinforces this sense of depth and creates a sense of drama in the picture.
It is also worth noting that Café Terrace at Night is one of the first paintings by Van Gogh, in which he created a magical theme with the help of a starry background. Many fans and critics also believe that Van Gogh’s newfound attraction towards religion was the major reason he started using night and stars in his paintings, which can be seen in numerous paintings afterward.
Based on a Real Place
One might be surprised that the cafe van Gogh portrayed in the painting is entirely based on a real-life cafe. Situated in the village of Arles’ Place du Forum in the southern part of France, the cafe still exists. As a mecca for Van Gogh fans, the cafe was renamed Café Van Gogh to celebrate the artist’s legend.
Vincent van Gogh preferred painting on location in real-time rather than painting from memory. Therefore, Van Gogh set up his drawing stand in the northeastern corner of the Place du Forum, which is the exact location Van Gogh captured this amazing view.
The place still has a concrete block that marks where the Dutch artist sat to create the painting. So if you ever visit Arles, make your way to the northeastern corner and face the Café Terrace – you will see where Van Gogh had set up his easel to create the masterpiece that has been one of the most iconic paintings in art history.
Accuracy of the Stars
According to the astronomical data, the positions of the stars portrayed in the “Café Terrace at Night” are actually very accurate. Fascinating right? Vincent van Gogh’s catalog of letters shows that he had started working on the painting in September 1888.
When researchers narrowed down the dates, they found that the painting had to be made on the 17th or 18th of the same month. That said, researchers were able to find the real-life positioning of the stars that night. The result? Researchers were able to conclude that Vincent van Gogh had placed the stars in the painting where they would have been on those dates.
Lack of the Color Black
Van Gogh’s “The Starry Night” is a classic depiction of a cafe in the southern part of France at nighttime. Despite being a night scene, Vincent van Gogh avoided using the color black, which is unusual and difficult in night scenes. Such was Van Gogh’s expertise and mastery in matching colors.
Van Gogh completed the entire painting of a dark night without using the darkest color available. Instead, Vincent van Gogh used different shades of yellow and blue to create a contrast between light and darkness and communicated the emotion he wanted to portray in his work.
In a letter to his sister, Vincent van Gogh explained, “This is a night painting without black, with nothing but beautiful blue and violet and green and in this surrounding the illuminated area colors itself sulfur pale yellow and citron green”.
Said to be Inspired by Da Vinci’s the Last Supper
In a 2013 European Conference paper written by Jared Baxter, he suggested that “Café Terrace at Night” had some links with Da Vinci’s “The Last Supper”. Upon taking a closer look at the painting by Van Gogh, viewers can see that the central figure is surrounded by 12 figures – just as it is in Da Vinci’s “The Last Supper”.
That’s not all – viewers can also see a shadowy figure in the doorway, which is symbolized as Juda if compared to “The Last Supper”. As was already noted, he started the starry series after realizing his interest in religion, and “Café Terrace at Night” was one of the first works in it. This is also one of the reasons “Café Terrace at Night” is compared and said to be inspired by Da Vinci’s “The Last Supper”.
To conclude, these are four secrets of Vincent van Gogh’s “Café Terrace at Night” that most people, including his die-hard fans, might not have known. An iconic artist whose works have spoken for themselves, Van Gogh has indeed left a never-ending legacy besides him.