Café Terrace at Night – Vincent Van Gogh (1888)

A close study of the painting reveals that the main characters include one central figure with long hair surrounded by 12 individuals, plus a cross shines in the background of the composition, and Van Gogh has included additional cross-like shapes throughout the artwork. A shadowy figure slipping through the doorway may symbolize Judas. A religious allusion wouldn’t be too out of character for Van Gogh. Before devoting his attention to painting, he had wished to “preach the gospel everywhere,” and his father, Theodorus van Gogh, was a pastor for a Dutch Reformed church. Around the time of working on Cafe Terrace at Night, van Gogh wrote to his brother, Theo van Gogh, explaining that he had a “tremendous need for, shall I say the word – for religion,” with direct reference to the painting.

Van Gogh never signed “Café Terrace at Night.” However, he specifically mentioned the painting in three pieces of correspondence, so art historians are confident that he painted it.

Van Gogh’s iconic Post-Impressionistic star-filled sky appears for the first time in his “Café Terrace at Night.”

Café Terrace at Night” is one of three Arles paintings that feature Van Gogh’s distinctive star-filled sky.

Although a night scene, the painting is devoid of the color black. Vincent states in a letter to his sister that, to him, the night is richer in color than day.

Vincent painted the café terrace scene on location rather than from memory.

The café in the painting is still in existence, renamed the Café Van Gogh.

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