Contrary to popular belief, given the enormous quantity of work many famous and historic artists produced during their lifetimes, they didn't paint twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. They ate, slept, and relaxed at the end of a hard day's work the same as the rest of us (painters or otherwise). Usually such periods of relaxation involved a small cafe where they took their meals, drank their wine, and met and talked with fellow artists. The Impressionist had their Guerbois; Picasso and his friends the els Quatre Gats; the New York School, the Cedar Tavern; and in the tiny village of Arles in the south of France there still stands today The Cafe Alcazar.
|Cafe Terrace at Night,|
1888, Vincent van Gogh
|The Night Cafe, 1888,|
Vincent van Gogh
Van Gogh painted the place on a couple occasions. The more famous Yellow House, which he also painted, was nearby. It was destroyed during WW II bombing, but his paintings of the area give a good feel for what the place must have been like 120 years ago. Vincent also painted many of the people who frequented the tiny tavern, including his good friend and postman, Joseph Roulin, his wife, also Marie Ginoux, wife of the owner of the place, and some of the young ladies he met there. But it is his haunting depiction of the bistro's deserted, lonely interior at night, after all the patrons had gone, that is our most lasting impression of the Cafe Alcazar. It is a place, Van Gogh said, "...where you can ruin yourself, go mad, commit a crime... So I have tried to express, as it were, the powers of darkness in a low public house."