The Night Cafe

        The Night Cafe by Vincent Van Gogh vividly depicts the interior of a cafe with a green ceiling and red and yellow walls. The vibrant colors and the glowing lights hanging from the ceiling represent not only a harsh atmosphere but also exhibit warmth that indicates emotions of the figures in the painting. The painting consists of five very different figures- a couple, a depressed lonely man, a waiter, and two men with their heads slouched. The waiter is wearing light-colored clothing, whereas all the other figures are in dark attire. In addition, it is also noteworthy that all the figures are spread out towards the corner while the waiter is the only figure in the middle. In The Night Café Van Gogh uses a vibrant color palette, texture and light to portray a scene of loneliness and depression.

         The Night Café by Van Gogh almost looks geometric because of the usage of several rectangular-shaped objects; the room, the half-curtained door, window, tables are all rectangular shaped, circular objects such as the clock, lights, circular table are also distinguishable. When perspective is considered, it seems that the floor is the most perceptible, however, the ceiling is also not eliminated. The clock hanging in the background serves as an additional reminder for time. The right-hand side looks more organized than the left-hand side. On the right side, there are more wine glasses, some full and some empty. The chairs are also arranged in an uneven manner. On the other hand, the left side has fewer wine glasses, precisely a bottle and seems to be more organized. There is an exit at the back and all the lamps seem to be glowing super brightly.

         In The Night Café Van Gogh uses a contrasting color palette consisting of mostly solid, saturated colors, to portray a sense that shows humanity at a low point. A sickly yellow color reigns over the painting and is almost blinding. The color forces the viewer to look away to the contrasting blood red walls. The use of dark red, green and blue brings out the intense tension of the room. Red is associated with strong, intense emotions such as love, anger, danger, and fear; yellow represents sickness, cowardice, deceit, and jealousy-all characteristics which lead to the downfall of humanity. These vibrant colors help bring out the tension in the room to life. Van Gogh uses black to outline the objects, further solidifying their shapes and brings out a pure, darker tone. He uses harsh colors that make the painting raucous and unpleasing to the eye. The aggression of the colors is reminiscent of the glaring awareness one has when they feel depressed or lonely. By doing this, he seems to be portraying the terrible side of human nature and its negative effect on society.

        The texture represented in The Night Café further enhances the rough, unpleasant side of the society. Texture allows the viewer to perceive a visual sense of touch or substance in a 2D painting. Van Gogh applied thick layers of paint also known as the impasto method on this painting. This helped create a roughness throughout the painting which in turn helped create a vivid sense of texture that he desired for the viewer to see. It is also noteworthy that even though the brushstrokes on the walls and the ceilings are pretty smooth, the brushstrokes on the floor and tables are rough. The lines he drew across the wooden floor leading towards the backdoor helped give of a sense of perspective, which can be related to how humans can get out of this treacherous environment through that back door but cannot. The floor is etched with marks on top of more marks which shows how with time humans are scarred repeatedly. The textures in this painting not only heightens his painting but also embodies the theme of desolation which makes us go further down the depression road.

       In addition to the usage of intensifying colors and textures, Van Gogh uses light to portray the distance from everyone else in the room to the viewer. He uses various forms of lamps and textures to create a lit-up room which forms a show in the painting. The bright yellow color can also be incorporated to show the brightness in the room. Van Gogh uses a shade of yellow which is bright yet created a darker and nightly mood in the painting. Moreover, the shadows are very visible and are all formed in an angle. This gives off the sense that everyone and everything is away from the observer. This, in turn, creates a sense of loneliness and depression since space and light are isolating the viewer.

         In The Night Café Van Gogh has repeatedly portrayed depression and loneliness through the use of his color palette, texture, and light. From the perspective of a viewer, the painting is not soothing even though it represents a calm atmosphere. Instead, it seems disturbing as if viewers can visualize the feelings and emotions of the characters in the painting. This has been possible because Van Gogh married lines and overstimulating color palette with the texture which further helped create a wholesome painting with underlying themes.

Vincent Van Gogh, The Night Café, 1888. Oil Paint. 2’5” x 3’0”. Decoration for the Yellow House Series.

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