Vincent van Gogh, The Night Café, September 1888, oil on canvas, 28½” x 36⅓”, Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Van Gogh: You Are Here

You are privy to the point of view of a very sick man.

The Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh suffered terribly from many diseases including syphilis, epilepsy, and alcoholism.  He also was tremendously anxious and depressed, which is why he is the original tortured artist in the stereotypical sense of the term.

This is a painting of a café on the ground floor of a building where Van Gogh lived in Arles.  Van Gogh wrote his brother Theo all the time so we have lots of information about his life and art.  In this painting, Van Gogh used the complementary colors of “blood red” and “sulfur yellow-green” to portray the atmosphere of a place where, he told Theo, “a person can ruin oneself, run mad, or commit a crime.”

The garish colors painted with his characteristically nervous brushstroke allow a viewer to comprehend Van Gogh’s intense and horrific psychological state. We recognize why Van Gogh called this place a “furnace of hell.” We see that he felt isolated, trapped, and tortured by his alcoholism.

More paintings by Vincent van Gogh

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