"I was only interrupted by my work on a new painting representing the exterior of a night café. On the terrace there are small figures of people drinking. An immense yellow lantern illuminates the terrace, the facade, the side walk and even casts light on the paving stones of the road which take a pinkish violet tone. The gables of the houses, like a fading road below a blue sky studded with stars, are dark blue or violet with a green tree. Here you have a night painting without black, with nothing but beautiful blue and violet and green and in this surrounding the illuminated area colours itself sulfur pale yellow and citron green. It amuses me enormously to paint the night right on the spot. Normally, one draws and paints the painting during the daytime after the sketch. But I like to paint the thing immediately. It is true that in the darkness I can take a blue for a green, a blue lilac for a pink lilac, since it is hard to distinguish the quality of the tone. But it is the only way to get away from our conventional night with poor pale whitish light, while even a simple candle already provides us with the richest of yellows and oranges. . . . You never told me if you had read Guy de Maupassant’s Bel-ami, and what you now think of his talent in general. I say this because the beginning of Bel-ami is precisely the description of a starry night in Paris, with the lighted cafés of the boulevard, and it’s something like the same subject that I’ve painted just now."
- Vincent van Gogh, 1888, letter to his sister after finishing Cafe Terrace at Night
Why have I posted quotes by van Gogh on two of his paintings on consecutive days? Because framed prints of those two artworks hang on the wall in my office behind my chair, that is what clients look at when they are facing towards me in the office.
Cafe Terrace at Night is the first in a trilogy of paintings which feature starlit skies. Starry Night Over the Rhone was painted a month later, followed by Starry Night painted the next year in Saint-Rémy.
The cafe remains today and has been renamed Cafe Van Gogh: