Van Gogh created four café paintings during his brief art career. One of these is Café Terrace at Night, one of Van Gogh’s most recognized paintings. Two of the café paintings are from his time in Paris and two from his time in Arles. In Paris, Van Gogh refined his talent and began to incorporate new colors, a departure from the somber earth tone palette of his early works. In Paris, he discovered the French Impressionists and began to experiment with their styles. In Arles, he found inspiration in the sunlight and his paintings grew brighter in color. His unique and characteristic techniques came together in Arles, and Van Gogh painted some of his most impressive works.
Through his painting style Van Gogh hoped to capture not just the subject but also to express a message or a meaning. We see this especially in his depiction of the desolate setting and patrons in The Night Café in the Place Lamartine in Arles. They all seem to be down and outs; the painting is full of loneliness and desperation.
The cafés in Van Gogh’s paintings were establishments that he frequented himself. He met other artists there and befriended the owners. Terrace of a Café on Montmartre (La Guinguette) is a café where artists such as Pissarro, Sisley, Cézanne, Toulouse-Lautrec, Renoir, Monet, Zola and many others would meet and eat. Agostina Segatori Sitting in the Café du Tambourin is a portrait of the owner of the café, a woman who Van Gogh is believed to have had an affair with.
Each of the café paintings tells a different story. To learn more about the Van Gogh’s café paintings, click on the links below:
Terrace of a Cafe on Montmartre (La Guinguette) painted in Paris France in October of 1886
Agostina Segatori Sitting in the Café du Tambourin painted in Paris France, February to March of 1887
The Night Cafe in the Place Lamartine in Arles painted in Arles September 1888
The Café Terrace on the Place du Forum (Café Terrace at Night) painted in Arles in September of 1888