The Café Terrace at Night…Following the Footsteps of Vincent van Gogh
Amsterdam was my first point of entry in Europe, so it will always be special to me. Each time I return, I always get a feeling of both excitement and comfort in knowing what awaits me. Amsterdam provided me with my first taste of European culture and my few days there left me wanting more. It was my jumping off point to a new-found indulgence in art appreciation. My first time to Amsterdam included visits to both the Rijks Museum and the van Gogh Museum; the likes of these can be saved for another post. During that time, it seemed the more museums I visited, the more I wanted. One might compare this to the euphoric addiction some might have to the notorious “coffee shops” (or cannabis cafés) of Amsterdam.
On this particular trip, Amsterdam was the starting point for a river cruise to Antwerp. The cruise showcased the tulips and windmills of the Netherlands during the spring of the year. The Kröller-Müller Museum was an included excursion on the itinerary. With 180 drawings and 87 paintings by Vincent van Gogh, the Kröller Museum’s collection is second in number, only to the van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. Additionally, the museum houses works by Pablo Picasso, Auguste Renoir and Claude Monet; plus a wonderful sculpture garden serving as a place for inspiration and reflection.
The Café Terrace at Night, also known as The Cafe Terrace on the Place du Forum, (1888) is the work of Dutch post-impressionist Vincent van Gogh. The original painting is part of an extensive private collection assembled by Helene Kröller-Müller (1869-1939), and now on display at the Kröller-Müller Museum in Otterloo, Netherlands. Otterloo is an easy day trip from Amsterdam. After spending a day at the Kröller-Müller Museum and discovering the genius of van Gogh, I gained an interest in his work, especially his remarkable techniques in capturing the stars within the dark blue nighttime skies. The inspiration for The Café Terrace at Night is a small café located in Arles, France.
Vincent van Gogh arrived in Arles from Paris in 1888 and stayed there for 14 months. During that time he produced a number of paintings including the Café Terrace at Night. When offered an opportunity to visit Arles, I jumped at the chance to walk in the footsteps of Vincent van Gogh. More than one hundred years later, the café still exists, though it is now appropriately known as Café Van Gogh. During a brief stop at the café, I could not help but wonder if Vincent remains a patron there, if only in spirit. Outside the café, one can stand in the place where he set up his easel, thus taking in the site from his vantage point. Visitors to Arles find myriad references to van Gogh’s genius throughout the town as well as in nearby St. Remy, which was the inspiration for van Gogh’s famous Starry Night painting. It is said that van Gogh’s time in Arles and St. Remy is one of the most prolific times in his artistic career.
Vincent van Gogh was enchanted by the landscape and light in Arles. He expressed this in a series of letters to his brother Theo and sister Willemien during his time there. The life of Vincent van Gogh was one of sadness. Throughout his adult life, he suffered from bouts of mental illness which seemed to become more pronounced early in 1890, shortly after the completion of his starry night series of paintings. On July 27, 1890, at age 37, Vincent van Gogh took his own life.
~Donna Bednarek – August 19, 2011