“A Sense of Calmness and Serenity”: Vincent Van Gogh’s ‘Cafe Terrace at Night’

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Dutch artist Vincent Van Gogh is one we are all aware of one way or another. Whether you’re a fan of ‘Starry Night’ or the iconic ‘Sunflowers’ there is no doubt Van Gogh takes inspiration from the atmospheres and environment around him.

One of Vincent Van Gogh‘s many talents was his ability to capture the true feeling of the atmosphere that surrounds the contents of his many beautiful works of art. From the depths of the coldest winter to the whimsical soft fresh air of summer, Van Gogh’s masterpieces that span his 20-year career ,up until his tragic death in 1890, allow us to explore the feelings and intensities of the vast environment that surrounded him.

As a big fan of Van Gogh, it’s no surprise that I wanted to focus on one of his seminal works. ‘Cafe Terrace at Night’ was painted in 1888 when the artist visited the Place du Forum in the gorgeous picturesque city of Arles, France. Currently housed in the Kröller Müller Museum, located in the Dutch city Otterlo, ‘Cafe Terrace at Night’ manages to encapsulate a huge wealth of feelings through the texture of the work. As vivid contrasting coloured oils lay upon the canvas it allows the summer breeze and relaxation associated with summertime to be brought to the viewer’s attention. The glowing yellows of the warming streetlights cast a sense of calmness and serenity across the cobbled street, highlighting the difference in temperature between the restaurants and the stone floor that outlines them.

The bustle of the city street is one that is reminiscent of a warm summer evening, one of those evenings where you feel like you could stay up all night, staring into the crisp, starlit sky. The air is still but simultaneously alive and enticing through the illusory dynamics of the oil paints, ultimately adding to the seasonal vibe of the overall piece. The open shutters of the windows above define the heat and heighten the mood of a humid summer evening. When I look at this painting, I wish I could walk along the street to feel the soothing atmosphere of the summer night. You can practically hear the discussions being held by the individuals sat on the cafe terrace, whether these be couples, families or friends.

It’s a shame this piece isn’t on exhibition anywhere nearby, however, it’ll always be a stand-out work of art that represents the summer season in the best way possible. Van Gogh worked wonders with oil paints which made the unreachable feel almost accessible, placing us into different scenes and seasons through his impressionist strokes. Cafe Terrace does just that, it allows us to feel the soothing breeze of nighttime in the beautiful city of Arles without having to be there; encapsulating the tranquillity of summer.

Check out the Kröller-Müller museum, current home of ‘Cafe Terrace at Night’ and unlock some of its secrets and history. 

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third-year film student & records/live exec 20/21

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