Van Gogh’s Arles at Night

Van Gogh’s Arles at Night

Night Cafe. By Vincent Van Gogh

One highlight of my visit to France was to see this cafe, to see where Van Gogh stood and painted and watched the changing light and put his life on canvas. I saw it under sunlight, and missed the scene in the dark, but stood where he stood and saw what he saw. In Arles Van Gogh had his final falling out with Gauguin, cut off part of his left earlobe and gave it to a local prostitute. He gave far more of himself than that to the world. Everything. He gave everything.

The picture above is a brilliant composition, with perfect depth, blocks of color, juxtapositions, angles, and drama. It is a precursor for the surrealists in mood and mystery. The sky is alive, as it always is with Van Gogh. The tables are alive. The stones. The chairs. The cafe itself.

Have always thought that the most amazing thing about Van Gogh was just that. That everything is so alive. His brush strokes were electrically charged, leaping from his soul, coursing down his arm and onto the canvas. And he was so often in pain. He so often lived on the edge of existence, on the edge of life, but his paintings held more life than many humans I’ve met.

That, of course, shouldn’t be. Translating immense pain into art, charging that art with more life than people you meet. Shouldn’t be. Shouldn’t happen. But did. And does even now.

This is not a romantic notion for me. This is empirical observation of the saddest kind.

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