ON PARIS

"If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris ... then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast." Ernest Hemingway

Tuesday, 18 February 2020

#WEP/IWSG February challenge - Cafe Terrace - my tribute to the painter, Vincent van Gogh

Hello friends!

For the inaugural WEP 2020 February challenge, I'm taking  a break from #flashfiction and going with a tribute to one of my favorite artists, Vincent van Gogh, that mystic and idealist, who just happens to be the inspiration for this challenge.


Painted in August-September 1888, this painting has had many names - The Night Cafe, Cafe at Night, Place du Forum, Arles, Cafe Terrace. At its first public exhibit in 1891, the work bore the title Café, le soir, or Coffeehouse at Evening. Another name it goes by is Café Terrace on the Place du Forum. To have so many names signifies its importance on so many levels!!

Van Gogh painted this cafe which was open all night in his day. Here vagabonds and drunks would come to find shelter, not knowing where else to go to sleep off their drink and drown their solitude. This cafe was home to them.


Vincent Willem van Gogh was a Dutch post-impressionist painter
 who is among the most famous and influential figures in the history of Western art.

Even in van Gogh's time, this cafe was central to French culture. A place for a meeting of minds of like-minded souls. This painting was the fruit of a meeting between Guy de Maupassanat and van Gogh and featured at the beginning of de Maupassant's risque novel, Bel Ami. Even though set in Paris, it's Arles he's describing...
It was one of those sultry, Parisian evenings when not a breath of air is stirring; the sewers exhaled poisonous gases and the restaurants the disagreeable odors of cooking and of kindred smells. Porters in their shirt-sleeves, astride their chairs, smoked their pipes at the carriage gates, and pedestrians strolled leisurely along, hats in hand.
Van Gogh loved to paint the night. He loved the colors, the mellow blues, violets and greens.  He wrote 'the night is more alive and more richly colored than the day.' Astronomers have studied the placement of the stars in the painting and have lauded van Gogh for getting them exactly right for August/September in his part of the world.

I visited this cafe in Arles two years ago. I was thrilled it was still there as if waiting for the triumphal return of the unfortunate van Gogh who immortalised the cafe. It's been renamed Cafe van Gogh which I think is adorable. This is what it looks like today. Not a lot different from van Gogh's day.



It was still a feast of colour on a bleak winter's night. I stood shivering in the forum, but it was not going to open for me, more's the pity. Had to grab a bite at some ordinary eatery across the way and gaze at it throughout the meal, imagining the roisterous time being had by all in Cafe Terrace 100 or so years back.

I'm not one to sit inside cafes, but here is part of the inside taken from one of my books:



Café Terrace at Night ranks second in a list of the top ten most reproduced artworks of all time. Van Gogh's Starry Night holds first place. I was thrilled to find an airbnb on the Rhone River in Arles when I visited. It reflected this view.  The owner was a van Gogh fanatic who sat me down with a map and highlighter and documented the 'van Gogh trail' for me to follow. I was just as happy sitting at the window of my 'room with a view.'




When I was in Paris at the end of 2019, it seems they've suddenly discovered how fantastic van Gogh's artwork reproduces. I saw Starry Night suitcases and van Gogh reproductions on scarves, especially Cafe Terrace. I couldn't resist buying one and Sunflowers as a gift for someone. Can't wait for the end of the Australian heatwave to wear mine!



Go Vincent van Gogh!

Please click on my sidebar to read more WEP entries. If in the future you'd like to write for us, check out our website! Our next prompt is in April. Yolanda Renee has returned as a WEP host. Yay! She will be hosting:


Isn't that intriguing? Why don't you join us?

And hello! WEP is celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2020! I  hope you'll join the fun writing competition at least once this year!




52 comments:

  1. Oh wow! That's one great start to the year! Lovely to see where the prompt took you, Denise...have to confess I too got into a similar kind of trail :)

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    1. Yes, Nila, you have indeed which is what I thought when I read yours last night. Awesome.

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  2. What a lovely share. I felt as though I were there. And how awesome to have had such an amazing journey! So envious!

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    1. I'd be happy to do it again, slower next time!

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  3. That trail must have been so fun! I'm not too much into art but ended up going down a rabbit hole when I read about this painting. Who knew art could be this interesting (at least for me)?

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    1. I'm glad Bernadette. Art History would have been a fabulous subject now I wished I'd taken, but we can always self teach.

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  4. Wow - have to admit I wasn't familiar with this painting at all (which is totally reflected in my story :P). It's nice to read the background and learn more!

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  5. Thanks for delving into the interesting history of the painting, Denise. Van Gogh was a fascinating person, for sure. I would love to visit that cafe. The scarf is fabulous!

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    1. Yes, as Elephant's Child says, I should drape it somewhere as it's too hot to drape it around my body!

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  6. Thank you Denise. I had no idea and what an enlightening piece this is. You made me fall in love with the café. Though my take on it and even the place is different from what it actually is I'm now almost wondering how my story would have turned out had I known these details. Thank you!
    Sonia from A Hundred Quills
    Https://soniadogra.com

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  7. A beautiful and thoughtful piece. I love Vincent Van Gogh and feel something of a kinship with him, as I too navigate this world with mental illness.

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    1. I’m sorry to hear of your mental illness. Van Gogh certainly suffered painfully. My heart goes out to you.

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  8. Hi,

    Thank you for showing me the historical importance of Van Gogh’s painting. A lot of things I didn’t know even though I’ve read one or two biographies about Van Gogh.
    He was indeed unique and one of a kind in the art world of his day and in my opinion,today’s world also.

    Shalom aleichem,
    Pat G

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    1. I just wish he received kudos when he lived but sadly painters often don’t.

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  9. Fascinating read. I didn't know any of it before. Thanks, Denise.

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  10. As a van Gogh fan for decades, this post was a treat as was doing the Challenge. I envy you going on a 'van Gogh trail' in Arles even if I've seen many of his artwork in three Dutch museums, including Cafe Terrace at Night at the Kröller-Müller Museum in Otterlo.

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    1. It was wonderful Roland. As was the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam. I’d love to go again. Lucky you to see so much.

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  11. A Van Gogh trail? Colour me jealous. I loved this piece, and my research for the prompt made much of it familiar. Did you also know that he didn't use any black to create that glorious sky? I suspect I would happily drape that scarf on the wall to enjoy it all year round.

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    1. I'm glad you learned something by participating this time Sue. Yes, I knew he never used black for his sky renditions. You've given me some ideas for the scarf.

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  12. Van Gogh was a fabulous artist, and I've always loved his work. I'd love to go to a cafe that was open all night. I can see why it inspired him. And like van Gogh, I've always had an obsession with the night sky. This post was wonderful. Thank you!

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    1. Glad you share my love of his work, Laura. His night skies are wonderful.

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  13. Oh, all that stuff I want to do! And the cafe’s still there! You must send me the contact at the Airbnb ;). I had to write mine from memory with no Wi-fi to checkpoint facts. How we rely on it these days!

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    1. We do so much rely on it. I've sent you the airbnb contact. Let me know if you get it!

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  14. It does seem remarkable that such a famous artist could be destitute in his own time. Such a tragedy, to be both genius and near psychotic. Life can be cruel.

    I am glad you have found joy in his works, and of course visiting his City of Paris.

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    1. Artists are often destitute until they die, then money isn't much help then. Reading of a van Gogh painting he gave to someone as payment and they sold it for a few quid. It recently sold for $4 million!

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  15. I love your scarf Denise and enjoyed reading about that tragic, tortured soul Van Gogh. Did he really get the stars in the sky right? Amazing.

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    1. He did Kalpanaa. A genius in so many ways. And yes I must wear that scarf!

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  16. I'm jealous! I hope to one day visit Paris as some of ancestors are that region. The fact that the placements of stars in his painting are deemed as accurate truly amazes me!

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    1. You must Carrie Ann. van Gogh was a genius in so many ways.

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  17. A great tribute. Like all genius minds his mind wasn't quiet.

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    1. Such a pity, but if his mind was quiet, he probably wouldn't have painted as he did for sure.

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  18. What a fun piece! As much as I love fiction, it isn't the only way to tell a story. I love this tribute. It's so cool that you got to visit the cafe from the famous painting.

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    1. You're right, Toi. I really like creative non-fiction. I actually wrote a story about van Gogh like that once. It was indeed super cool to visit the csfe.

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  19. This was wonderful. I didn't know the story of the cafe, the many names for the one painting or the connection to de Maupassanat. So interesting, and it makes this prompt even more delightful. I loved your photo, and I can only imagine how you felt standing there in this magical place.

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    1. It was beyond awesome Lee. I so want to go back and repeat the experience!

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  20. This is a wonderful tribute to one of my favourite artists. He only gets a 'nod' in my story, but my visit to the Musee d'Orsay in Paris, especially the salon with his works in, remains one of my best memories.

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    1. Thanks Donna. I remember being jealous of the students and artists in those rooms at d'Orsay with their easels and intense looks as they attempted to copy the likes of Monet and van Gogh. Good luck!

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  21. Thank you for sharing these moving highlights of your stops at some of the places Van Gogh lived. He resonates for so many with his art, created in spite of his suffering. We once had a magical trip to Ouro Preto in Brazil, where in a small bed and breakfast, we slept in the same room where Chilean poet Pablo Neruda once stayed. Your post shows how we connect to artists when words fail us.

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    1. Neruda is a wonderful poet. I only discovered him a few years ago. His voice was so strong.

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  22. Hi Denise - this is wonderful and I'm glad it's real ... I saw the amazing film 'Loving Vincent' - which I positively loved, so your post reminded me of the film - and how it gave us in an experimental animated biographical way a recreation of his last days, yet the path he followed over the years.

    So you've brought memories of the film back ... but giving your love of the area, and of van Gogh's way of life in Arles - still there over 120 years later. I'd love to visit sometime - whether I do or not remains to be seen.

    I can imagine the mementos would have drawn you in ... they are gorgeous - and I'm glad you've got that memory. Lucky you to have your Airnb host/ess show you the van Gogh route ... but yes - just to sit and stare sometimes gives one such solace.

    Congratulations ... I've the film here - I must watch again ... cheers Hilary

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    1. Beautiful Hilary. I love a film that keeps on giving.

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  23. Thank you Denise for this comprehensive tribute. Learnt some interesting facts. Lovely photos and choice of paintings.

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  24. Thank You for writing this... I learned something new and enjoyed reading this.

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  25. I love all these facts and tid-bits. Thank you.

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