The Night Cafe

I’m not one for appreciating art, or even understanding it. However, every now and again I am stunned by something in the art world. Nothing new or ground breaking, just stumbling across something countless others have done years before me.

I came across this painting while trying to help prep an art lesson at school and we began to look at Vincent van Gogh. I have always been impressed by this odd little duchman, but I had never seen this painting before.

It’s called ‘The Night Cafe.’ I was drawn to it first of all because of the secene. I love my cafe’s. But this isn’t your standard Starbucks or quaint backstreet coffee shop. It’s actually a depressing little picture. It’s the kind of establishment visited by drunks and prostitues in nineteenth century Arles.

It is the honest and depressing theme of the painting that attracted me. The scene of hopelessness and lack of meaning. The painting highlights how for the punters of this seedy cafe life seemed empty and pointless.

Vincent wrote to his brother Theo about the painting.

“In my picture of the Night Café I have tried to express the idea that the café is a place where one can ruin oneself, go mad or commit a crime. So I have tried to express, as it were, the powers of darkness in a low public house.”

I like it beacuse it portrays an accurate view on society. Obviously this is an extrem, but it is uncomfortably close to reality. The lack of meaning, darkness and isolation. I can’t help but notice that van Gogh doesn’t have a natural centre piece in the painting. Nothing seems to be the central object. It deepens this idea of no meaning, no hope.

Last Sunday i preached from Ephesians, and the picture I see in the painting reminds me of Eph 2:1-3. That man is dead in transgressions. Objects of wrath. The painting is, to me, showing how man left to himself has no meaning except to ruin oneself.

But Ephesians teaches us that in Christ is every spiritual blessing. In Christ we can know God.

Just a thought…


am Jamie, and I am a Christ follower. I love Jesus but more importantly he loves me and made the ultimate sacrifice of his son so that all the things I have done, and will do, have been forgiven. And now I know God, and I pursue to know him more. Motivated and transformed by his grace I live for God, to glorify him by enjoying him.

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2 comments on “The Night Cafe
  1. Larry says:

    Interesting comments. Schaeffer writes of Van Gogh that Gogh looked to form a new community of artists, a sort of utopia. However soon after he invited the first artists to come live with him there were quarrels and the reality of sin shattered his dreams. Gogh, says Schaeffer, died in hopelessness.

    How tragic to know that life without Christ is hopeless, and yet not see the wonderful hope of life in Christ.

  2. Jon says:

    Jamie Hurd – art teacher and critic.

    I have to be honest I never thought I’d see the day

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January 2011
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Happy birthday to this happy little guy @saintbeagle xxx
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