VINCENT VAN GOGH:
Excerpts from the Letters
THE NIGHT CAFE, 1888
To Theo, Arles, 8 September 1888
Then to the great joy of the landlord, of the postman whom I had already painted,
of the visiting night prowlers and of myself; for three nights running I sat up to
paint and went to bed during the day. I often think that the night is more alive
and more richly colored than the day.
Now, as for getting back the money I have paid to the landlord by means
of my painting, I do not dwell on that, for the picture is one of the ugliest I have
done. It is the equivalent, though different, of the "Potato Eaters."
I have tried to express the terrible passions of humanity by means of red
The room is blood red and dark yellow with a green billiard table in the
middle; there are four citron-yellow lamps with a glow of orange and green.
Everywhere there is a clash and contrast of the most disparate reds and greens in
the figures of little sleeping hooligans, in the empty, dreary room, in violet and
blue. The blood-red and the yellow-green of the billiard table, for instance,
contrast with the soft tender Louis XV green of the counter, on which there is a
pink nosegay. The white coat of the landlord, awake in a corner of that furnace,
turns citron-yellow, or pale luminous green.
To Theo, Arles, n.d. (ca. September 1888]
In my picture of the "Night Cafe" I have tried to express the idea that the cafe
is a place where one can ruin oneself; go mad or commit a crime. So I have tried
to express, as it were, the powers of darkness in a low public house, by soft Louis
XV green and malachite, contrasting with yellow-green and harsh blue-greens,
and all this in an atmosphere like a devil's furnace, of pale sulphur.
And all with an appearance of japanese gaiety, and the good nature of