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European Art
Artist: Vincent van Gogh, Dutch, active France, 1853–1890

Le café de nuit (The Night Café)


Oil on canvas

72.4 × 92.1 cm (28 1/2 × 36 1/4 in.)
Bequest of Stephen Carlton Clark, B.A. 1903
In a letter to his brother written from Arles in the south of France, van Gogh described the Café de l’Alcazar, where he took his meals, as “blood red and dull yellow with a green billiard table in the center, four lemon yellow lamps with an orange and green glow. Everywhere there is a clash and contrast of the most disparate reds and greens.” The clashing colors were also meant to express the “terrible passions of humanity” found in this all-night haunt, populated by vagrants and prostitutes. Van Gogh also felt that colors took on an intriguing quality at night, especially by gaslight: in this painting, he wanted to show how “the white clothing of the café owner, keeping watch in a corner of this furnace, becomes lemon yellow, pale and luminous green.”
On view
19th century

Probably sent by Vincent from Arles in May 1889, among a large shipment to Theo in Paris; Mme. Johanna. van Gogh-Bonger, Amsterdam; sold to Berheim-Jeune in April 1907; J.A. Morosov, Moscow (acquired at the Exhibition of the Golden Fleece, Moscow, 1908), Museum of Modern Art, Moscow in spring 1919; M. Knoedler Gallery, New York, by Spring 1933 via Mattheisen Gallery, Berlin; Stephen C. Clark, New York, by 1933/34–1961; Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn.


Alan Shestack, ed., Yale University Art Gallery Selections (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 1983), 68–69, ill.

Michael Conforti et al., The Clark Brothers Collect: Impressionist and Early Modern Paintings, exh. cat. (Williamstown, Mass.: Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, 2006), 156, 181–83, 248, 316, 328, no. 144, fig. 149, 152.

H. Anna Suh, Vincent van Gogh: A Self-Portrait in Art and Letters, First (New York: Black Dog and Leventhal Publishers, 2006).

Carol L. Troyen et al., Edward Hopper, exh. cat. (Verona, Italy: MFA Publications, 2007), 199, no. 74, ill.

Pericles Lewis, The Cambridge Introduction to Modernism, First (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007).

John Barber, The Road from Eden: Studies in Christianity and Culture (New York: Academica Press, 2008).

Carlos Bosch, El Billar No Es De Vagos: Ciencia, Juegos y Diversion (San Diego: El Fondo de Cultura Economica, 2010), ill.

Petra ten-Doesschate Chu, Nineteenth-Century European Art, ed. Sarah Touborg (Boston: Laurence King Publishing Ltd., 2012), 435.

Arthur P. Shimamura, Experiencing Art: In the Brain of the Beholder (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013), 83, fig. 4.6.

Natalya Semyonova and Nicolas V. Iljine, eds., Selling Russia’s Treasures, The Soviet Trade in Nationalized Art, 1917–1938 (New York: MTA Publishing, 2013), 234–235, ill.

Walter Feilchenfeldt, Vincent van Gogh: The Years in France, Complete Paintings 1886–1890, II (London: Philip Wilson Publishers, 2013), 160; 342, ill.

Penelope J. E. Davies, Janson’s History of Art: The Western Tradition, Reissued 8th ed. (Boston: Pearson Education, Inc., 2016), 913–14, fig. 26.10.

Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.