The Night Café in Arles
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Paul Gauguin is one of the best-known names of Post-Impressionism, and Cafe at Arles certainly leaves an impression…

Just check out that hefty side-eye from subject Madame Ginoux. I am not concerned with the painterly qualities of Cafe at Arles, though, but rather the unbelievably juicy backstory that gave rise to the artwork. Buckle up for this one, folks. The nine weeks in 1888 that Gauguin lived in the French town of Arles were spent with none other than Vincent van Gogh. It was probably the greatest crossover event in (art) history.

Van Gogh had the grand idea of creating an artists’ utopia in Arles and invited Gauguin to participate. However, brother dearest Theo van Gogh had to bribe Gauguin to get him to Arles. What started with bribery ended with a disastrous confrontation between Vincent and Paul… let’s just say that van Gogh got an earful.

Despite a tense working relationship, the nine weeks spent in Arles were certainly productive. Gauguin produced twenty-one paintings and van Gogh produced thirty-six. I mean, jeez guys, it’s not a race. To create Cafe at Arles, Gauguin re-worked two of van Gogh’s paintings (a portrait of Madame Ginoux and, separately, the cafe scene). Behind Madame Ginoux in Gauguin’s cafe scene are several gentlemen cavorting with prostitutes. You know, the preferred subject matter of horny 19th century male painters. But those nine weeks in Arles prove that despite the high tension, Gauguin produced a number of works of high art, including Cafe at Arles.

After the turbulent tussle between the two artists, Gauguin took off to court prepubescent girls and paint in French Polynesia. You can see just how enamored Gauguin was with the, ahem… scenery.




  1. Chernik, Karen. “Inside Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin’s Nine Turbulent Weeks as Roommates.” Artsy, November 5, 2018, t-weeks-roommates.
  2. Kren, Emil and Daniel Marx. “Night Cafe at Arles (Madame Ginoux).” Web Gallery of Art, Accessed April 29, 2019.
  3. “Paul Gauguin’s Biography.” Accessed April 29, 2019.