This painting was the first time Van Gogh focused on creating his now-iconic evening backdrops with starlit skies – he would go on to create Starry Night Over the Rhône soon afterwards, followed by The Starry Night. The colours are immediately striking, and you can tell that this is a Van Gogh painting based on the colour palette and dark silhouettes in the distance alone.
It’s so well-loved that the exact site in Arles where Van Gogh created this image was refurbished in the early 1990s, to more accurately resemble (or replicate) the site as it was when the artist immortalised it in this painting.
What’s the background story?
Van Gogh himself was clearly inspired at the time, and was excited at the idea of representing nighttime in his paintings. Having just moved to Arles, he was full of ideas and hopeful about the direction of his art. Despite it only being two years before his death, Van Gogh was just beginning to lay the foundation for some of his most iconic paintings, embodied in Café Terrace at Night.
“Now there’s a painting of night without black. With nothing but beautiful blue, violet and green, and in these surroundings the lighted square is coloured pale sulphur, lemon green. I enormously enjoy painting on the spot at night. In the past they used to draw, and paint the picture from the drawing in the daytime. But I find that it suits me to paint the thing straight away. It’s quite true that I may take a blue for a green in the dark, a blue lilac for a pink lilac, since you can’t make out the nature of the tone clearly. But it’s the only way of getting away from the conventional black night with a poor, pallid and whitish light, while in fact a mere candle by itself gives us the richest yellows and oranges.” – Vincent van Gogh.
Where is it?
Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo.