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Updated: May 18

'SORROW at The Night Cafe' (Sorrow à la nuit Café) appearing lower in this post is a personal tribute to Vincent Van Gogh.

"She had stared at him for a whole minute and decided that she did not have a grain of feeling left, because it would have been the same as bleeding to death." (Stieg Larsson) But then, there at 'The Night Cafe', came the ensuing sorrow and, for her, "a loneliness akin to the agony of death." (Mother Angelica)

'SORROW' ... In spite of his use of vivid colors and landscapes of swirling saturated pigments, Vincent Van Gogh often portrayed dejected human figures; subtle, expressive and often dark. Such is the portrayal in 'Sorrow', a drawing of his mistress Sien, in which she represented the sorrow and frailty of a woman of the time.

Vincent van Gogh drew and painted a series of works of his mistress (32 year old Sien) during their time together in the Netherlands. In particular, his drawing Sorrow is widely acknowledged as a masterwork of draftsmanship, the culmination of a long and sometimes uncertain apprenticeship in learning his craft.

In 1882 Vincent wrote: “I want to make drawings that move some people. ‘Sorrow’ is a small beginning.”

About a year after they began living together, Sien Hoornik told Van Gogh that she had become a prostitute out of laziness, predicting that “it’s bound to end up with me jumping in the water.” Sien ultimately drowned herself in 1904.

In my tribute to Vincent I attempted to portray the model as being a bit more hopeful than Sien, by adding flowers to her hair.

THE NIGHT CAFE (aka'Le Café de Nuit') ... The painting 'Le Café de Nuit' was executed on industrial primed canvas of size 30 (French standard). It depicts the interior of the cafe, with a half-curtained doorway in the center background leading, presumably, to more private quarters. Five customers sit at tables along the walls to the left and right, and a waiter in a light coat, to one side of a billiard table near the center of the room, stands facing the viewer.

One scholar wrote, "The café was an all-night haunt of local down-and-outs and prostitutes, who are depicted slouched at tables and drinking together at the far end of the room." In a jocular passage of a letter Van Gogh wrote to his brother, Theo, the artist said Ginoux (the café owner) had taken so much of his money that he'd told him it was time to take his revenge by painting the place.

'SORROW at The Night Cafe' ~ Robert Ruby Fine Art


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