“The painter, the true painter, will be he who can wring from contemporary life its epic aspect and make us see and understand, with color or in drawing, how great and poetic we are in our cravats and our polished boots.” -- Charles Baudelaire
Cafe Terrace, Place du Forum, Arles, Vincent van Gogh, 1888.
The different textures and striking complementary colors of this painting depict a now famous cafe in Arles, France, and is now considered one of van Gogh’s most beautiful works. No black pigments were used in this painting, despite the nighttime setting; instead, the cafe glows with a golden warmth, inviting the viewer in. Even the deep blues and purples are cool and refreshing, without the bleak overtones of some of his other night time paintings, like Wheatfield with Crows. After spending time studying with some of France’s Impressionist painters, van Gogh’s work takes on a brighter, more cheerful color palette than the typical darker Dutch coloring. His Cafe Terrace presents a striking contrast to the Night Cafe, which depicts the interior of the same cafe, only with sharply clashing colors and a dissonance similar to the urban violence found in Toulouse-Latrec’s paintings. Van Gogh loved to paint the night sky, despite his fondness for fairer subjects, like sunflowers and farms. “I often think that the night is more alive and richly colored than the day,” he remarked in a letter to his brother Theo in September, 1888.