"I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious" - Albert Einstein

Artist Study

Artist Study

Artist – Vincent Van Gogh

Artwork – Café Terrace at Night


The artwork that I have chosen is “Café Terrace at Night” by Vincent Van Gogh that was painted in September 1888. This is a picturesque depiction of a café at the night time, crowd walking by and some in the café with bright lights and a scenic night sky, highlighting the café. The artist has used paints in a peculiar manner, the painting was painted during the age of Post Impressionism.


Van Gogh, very well known for “Stary Night”, uses his signature style of contrast between bright and dark colors. He has used colors and tones which are contrasting for this painting, these defy the darkening night sky. The amalgamation of the colors is certainly wonderfully done. The atmosphere in the painting as we see is a café lit up and pedestrians walking by and a beautiful night sky. The brushstrokes used by him are prominent and not subtle. The concept of light brush strokes from Impressionism was reversed in Post impressionism.


The color scheme in this painting is admirable, the blues, yellows and greens. The night painting is without black, nothing but the dark blue and violet for the night sky and depth into the buildings by dark greens. The illuminating effect given to the painting by the pale yellow and citron green.


This painting is one of the firsts that he painted during his stay in Arles, France. This also being his first painting with a nocturnal background. Using the contrasting colors and tones, Van Gogh achieved a luminous canvass with it defying the darkness. Van Gogh faced epilepsy and mental disorders; his only respite was to carry along sceneries on his canvass. He had been facing the illness is life long and painting helped him stay emotionally balanced. In 1886, Van Gogh moved to Paris and was influenced by the Impressionism and Post Impressionism artwork and started working on his own artboard. He encountered Monet, Pissarro, Gauguin and Bernard. He adopted then, the use of bright and vibrant colors in his art and began experimenting with his technique.


This was his first painting with a ‘starry night’ background in the series of paintings. His stargazing at night impacted his paintings and then found a new religion to follow. This religion, according to him, seemed to fill the vacuum of love. This was the idea and message behind the painting that affected Van Gogh’s artwork.

These were some of the aspects of the painting.



1 Comment

  1. Hi Cherry, thank you for this excellent analysis. You have described the formal elements of the painting and Van Gogh’s post-Impressionist technique in great detail. I especially like the way you were able to include context around Van Gogh’s life and career into the text.

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