Winter 2003, Arles France was damp, dank, and stank in many ways. Very little had changed since Van Gogh traipsed through these streets and frequented this bar and brothel.
Most people know of Van Gogh from his series of night paintings painted while living here in Arles in the 1880's, rooming with Gaugin. In fact, most of his night paintings were interiors, which were painted inside this here bar/restaurant/brothel. This location was immortalized in one of his most famous, and recognizable icons in art history, "The Night Cafe".
When Vincent was alive, he was despised by the people of Arles, who viewed him more as a nuisance. Their tolerance for him wore extremely thin, after he [purportedly] diced his ear and gave it to his hooker-gal, Rachel; who offered professional room service above this Cafe.
After Van Gogh's errant Ginsu knife performance, the people of Arles with pitchforks and torches, literally ran Van Gogh out of town. It was the slice heard round the world! They stripped him of his dignity, and even his name!
Then people of Van Gone ville saw an opportunity on how to capitalize on this extraordinary story. The name "Van Gogh", could bring lots of money from Pilgrams paying homage to the mad genius. The first thing the townsfolk did was name the cafe', "Cafe Vincent Van Gogh." Then began, "talking it up" in a sensational way.
Now days Van Gogh is their favorite son!
122 years later, the Cafe' is painted in brash yellow-green colors; this was someones overt way to make it look like it was a prop in Van Gogh's painting. They used colors from Van Goghs's palette! When looking at it in the daytime, it almost glows; like it is painted with florescent paint!
The Color has nothing to do with the surrounding architecture, It's the brightest building in the neighborhood! One can't help but wonder, what's in a name? The bottom line is tourist money. Make the location glow "All Night and Day", in a tacky way.
Now, I was still incredibly excited to be there, and I was looking forward to coming back that night: setting up my easel, and painting: Van Stein's version of "Van Gogh's Night Cafe."
If only the weather would hold...
Photo credit: Robert Eringer
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