Vincent van Gogh painted The Night Cafe in Arles in September 1888 using oil on an industrial primed canvas of size 30. It is an interior painting of a cafe with a half-curtained doorway in the center background. Yale University currently owns the painting, which is held at the Yale University Art Gallery.
The artwork is a genre painting that characterizes scenes from everyday life using van Gogh’s evolving Expressionist or Neo-Impressionist technique. Despite the abundant use of bright yellow and halos of light around the lamps, the painting does not convey a feeling of comfort and tranquility. Instead, Vincent described it as a place where people can destroy themselves, go crazy, or turn into criminals.
Vincent’s use of color and brushwork in The Night Cafe is thought to be symbolic of the complex human emotions and the human condition. The painting is one of Vincent’s most influential works as it powerfully communicates these themes through his art. It is believed that The Cafe Terrace at Night, another painting also produced at night, carries a secret meaning painted into the seemingly ordinary street cafe scene.