Van Gogh’s Ugliest Masterpiece

Van Gogh’s Ugliest Masterpiece

“The painting is one of the ugliest I’ve done.” This is what Vincent Van Gogh told his brother in a letter referencing this painting, called “Night Café” and, at first glance, you can see what he meant. This is a jarring image, even for Van Gogh. Especially when you compare it to his other famous scene of a cafe in Arles. Cafe Terrace at Night Here Van Gogh captures that romantic sense of European cafes on Summer evenings, where friends gather to talk and laugh. The blue starry sky compliments the pool of orange and yellow gas light under the terrace, which spills out over the cobble stones tinged with violet and pink. Compare to that, Night Cafe is a painting of anxiety. If the exterior is the dream of French nightlife, the interior is the nightmare. If the exterior is a place to talk and laugh, The interior depicts the cafe as a place where you can ruin yourself, go mad, commit crimes. As Vincent wrote in another letter to his brother. From these letters we understand that the ugly quizy quality of this painting was intentional. In the same way that he used color to capture his emotional response to natural beauty, here Van Gogh uses color to convey the uneasiness of a low-class bar room after midnight. So, how did Van Gogh achieve this effect? And how can, a quote unquote, “ugly painting” also be a masterpiece? And to answer these questions, maybe, the first place we should look is back in those letters. In reference to Night Cafe Van Gogh writes here, “I`ve tried to express the terrible human passions with the red and the green”. Everywhere it`s a battle and an antithesis of the most different greens and reds.” Van Gogh was an avid student of color. Specifically Charles Blanc`s analysis of Michel Chevreul color theory and Eugène Delacroix`s paintings. Here Van Gogh learned of the concept of simultaneous contrast, which says that He also learned of optical mixing which favorite placing solid colors next to each other on the canvas instead of actually mixing the pigments together In order to get more vibrant colors and color relationships. And the basic insight is that every color in the painting and in the real world is influenced by the colors around it. The impressionists and the post-impressionists used this relativety to push the effects of color further than ever before. And, maybe, none more powerfully than Van Gogh. So, when he talks about a battle or an antithesis between greens and reds in Night Cafe, this is what he means Green and red are complimentary colors and exert a force on each other just like blue and orange. But where`s blue and orange have a pleasing quality; there`s something punishing about green and red. The fact that was noted by another popular color theorist at the time — Ogden Rood. Van Gogh was aware of this too; just a few months prior he experimented with a similar color palette in his portrait of a Zouave soldier. Commenting to his brother,


  • Alexis Abcede says:

    still..worth millions

  • Illuminocalypse says:

    I can't help but also notice the light fixtures on the ceiling resemble eyes in a kind of dazed, drugged stupor. Like the painting is looking at you and making judgments on what you're up to there. I doubt that was intentional but it is there at least in my mind.

  • Trent Hansen says:

    By the end of this video the painting kind of started to scare me lol

  • Scheme Baron says:

    Can you please keep making videos that deconstruct great paintings?

  • Dion Joaquin Sayas says:

    1:26 basically modern art

  • alison ross says:

    Still look good to me!

  • charllaque says:

    You didnt notice the lights that looks like sleepy tired and sad eyes ..

  • Farabee Pushpita says:

    look, not everyone can pronounce van gogh's name right. and you'd hate to hear their attempts as well. better to let them say the anglicised version, even if it's incorrect. people try but not all sounds can be produced from traditional english speakers, and the same can be said for any language. they don't mean disrespect, it's just not possible for them. and don't say it's not that hard — you're probably used to it. and it's probably hard for you to pronounce a name that requires very specific sounds in a foreign language.

  • Shizoephrenic says:

    Van Goe? 😂😂😂

  • Morgan Glines says:

    Night Cafe is my absolute favorite Van Gogh. Generally speaking, I don't like his happier paintings. They can feel a bit forced and artificial to me. His more troubling paintings, like The Night Cafe, or the dying and dead sunflower paintings beautifully convey angst and uneasiness in a way that feels quite visceral. His happier works never seem to convey joy or peace of the same kind of magnitude.

    In my mind, art needs to do one of three things. It can convey technical brilliance. It can convey an innovative idea. It can convey strong feelings. (If it doesn't tick off at least one box, congratulations. You've made hotel art.) In that sense, I feel like Van Gogh's more depressing paintings are generally more successful than his happier works. The use of color tends to be more interesting. The brushwork feels concise and deliberate. The composition tends to be more novel. They're so exciting because even the more avant garde elements add to the mood. It's a fabulous work of art, particularly if you don't demand that art be conventionally attractive.

    Also, I feel like this video should have a shout out to the Yale Art Gallery, where this painting is located. It's a fabulous, very underrated art collection. There are a lot of masterworks that you see in art history textbooks, like this, in a very manageable space. Everything is laid out very logically, and you can definitely see the whole thing in a day. (Unless you count the British gallery as part of it, but that's a whole other building.) For a relatively small collection, it's exceptionally comprehensive. It's also free, so there's that.

  • Joe Stramn says:

    Spanish subtitles are cut in half of the video, please complete the subtitles, it would be quite helpful

  • 1177 says:

    “Ugliest” dude have you even seen the details like I can’t even draw a glass of water and Vincent Van Gogh paints a café that looks a bit creepy and then it’s considered “ugly” 😂

  • Dimas Gramz says:

    Do more art and less politics.

  • mark hughes says:

    Appreciate your insight – high quality.

  • flaskzy says:


  • Jasmijn Balgooi says:

    everybody's talking about his wrong pronunciation of van gogh but what about arles and gaugin……….lol

  • Rapture says:

    havent seen the video entirely but it remembers me to the 4chan creepypasta The Backdoors, it gave me the same feeling

  • Timothy B says:

    is nerdwriter canadian

  • prime drp says:

    0:28 H A I R C A K E

  • Tsetsi says:

    The brushstrokes are short and strong

  • Sunshine says:

    Do Van gogh was color blind????

  • RSP and ZZ says:

    You just talking shit and we take it as facts

  • Luboman411 says:

    This painting reminds me of the nightmares I've sometimes had. It has that queasy, odd feeling about it all over.

  • Kraker Heya says:

    The wall looks like a disfigured screaming face.

  • Tatiana Annie says:

    You're supposed to pronounce it as "Vincent Van Goth" or something not "Gow"

  • えみこ says:

    There is a VR game where nothing happens and nothing moves that is this painting recreated. You can walk around the cafe and look at the customers and the owners as they either stare back or ignore you. You can explore the back door and look around behind it. Also behind that door, there is a set of stairs into a pitch black basement. Nothing happens in this game, its just you looking around the cafe. But its one of the scariest and most disorienting games Ive played. I dont remember who made the game, but the way they turned the painting into a 3D, explorable space made the painting that much more stressful. Its one of my VR games, and games in general.

  • Kelly Dratts says:

    also, opium.

  • Axel F. says:

    Vango? Gogan? Really? Can't you even try? Is it American arrogance that makes them americanize each and every name?

  • Sandra says:

    yo everyone stfu about the pronunciation. damn.

  • Greg Gonzalez says:

    oh. damn. didn't know there was such a thing

  • eekns says:

    Ugh! The horror of red and green (Christmas, anyone?)!!!

  • Abbas Moosvi says:

    The Hallway Phantom sequence in David Lynch's Inland Empire follows a similar kind of color scheme – probably one of the most unsettling scenes in cinema history in my opinion.

  • macaco maco says:


  • gol keeper says:

    for mered and green match perfectly

  • J T says:

    Wow van gogh handwriting is so beautiful wtf. I thought my handwriting is pretty but man, I may have to improve myself.

  • MrMagillacutty says:

    That's a good perspective art acquaintance….

  • cynsmi says:

    So what does this say about modern day Christmas colors?

  • Karla Faulkner says:

    Not literally!

  • George Jewitt says:


  • ambercrombie789 says:

    Wonderful analysis.

  • Dan Gulino says:

    sound like he says 'Vango'

  • Snidely Whiplash says:

    The Van Gogh Museum is well worth a visit. You'll be blown away by the vibrancy of the paintings and the actual thickness of the paint on the canvass. I couldn't believe it.

  • David Roberts says:


  • Ethan: The Anonymous Painter says:

    Why every person back then have beautiful penmanships

  • Julieta Wapetona says:

    He didn’t cut off his ear

  • Stan The Van Man says:

    When that backdrop music dropped in i hot SCP chills

  • yunotastic says:

    ugliest masterpiece

    Me drawing stickmans: uh what?

  • Kemkaz says:

    anyone else notice the lights are eyes ? and Is it Van Gogh himself in a uncomfortable meeting in the right hand corner ? and the billiard table is considered a "challenge " he was more anti social and in a position of social that would have been uncomfortable .

  • Sebastian Melmoth says:

    Van Gogh = overrated.

  • Lemo Noel says:

    not van_go but [fun_ɡɔx]

  • Pink says:

    Welp, he succeeded. This painting makes me feel like I'm too drunk to stand up, feel like I'm trapped, and it makes me feel like I'm going mad.

  • 。。。 ً says:

    Leave him alone

  • kuronekouhai says:

    I like how he say ugliest but still added the masterpiece. I wish i had a masterpiece as well..eventhough it is ugly…

  • Can I get subs with random videos says:

    That’s better than I could achieve in my life! 😂

  • Caroline Orner says:

    He did not cut off his ear, he cut off a tip of his ear lobe. I’m so tired of this lie being perpetuated.

  • steve154life says:

    I love Van Gogh painting and drawing. I haft never been to tha museum of hiz art.

  • steve154life says:

    I do Own Five of hiz beautiful pictures, one iz the oil pastel of sun field and peach tree of which he drew a copy of in one letter to Theo hiz brother

  • steve154life says:

    I also haft a ink and water colour version of the Fifteen sunflowers in A yellow vase .and the sunflowers are in a Various states of petal loosing just beautiful pictures I wish I could add pictures to commits to show ü them

  • steve154life says:

    One I haft dat my cousin loves iz a charcoal drawing of a House field and tree covered in a pink /red tone water colour wash.

  • steve154life says:

    I also haft A few Salvador Dali tempera paintings, four Picasso drawings one iz a bull in ink on a sheet music From 1959

  • steve154life says:

    I also haft two Andy Warhol fairy butterfly and Mickey Mouse. I also haft Edvard munch painting anxiety. Day waz painted before the scream and a Paul signac pink cloud with boat

  • steve154life says:

    I also haft 4 Claude Monet grouch paintings one iz house of parliament from 1901 and a Windy Day which waz in the salon, waterlily and Japanese bridge from 1899 .and one water colour of San Giorgio of magori @sunset in 1908

  • steve154life says:

    I fekk lucky to walk by theese and see them every time I walk in the door and it's amazing

  • Gregg Trautmann says:

    Very well done and informative. One minor note, I think the round item on the left of the painting is not a counter top as mentioned in the narration but rather a coal stove for heat in the room.

  • Jan Strugala says:

    Loving Vincent. Must see Polish production. Each of the film's 65,000 frames is an oil painting on canvas, using the same technique as Van Gogh, created by a team of over 100 painters.

  • Jan Strugala says:

    Astonishing Polish Movie about Vincent. Painted !!

  • TheNintendoFanatic says:

    What song plays during the Cafe Terrace at Night segments?

  • BiscuitBurger says:

    Hahahah filthyfrank cake series music

  • Denis Preedy says:

    ''How can an ugly painting be a masterpiece''? Good question!! The answer is, of course, if the person viewing it is a moron and is ignorant of the skill required to produce a great painting. All modern painting is dross, and it began with the acceptance of Gogh as a painter of any merit, even the ''Urinal on the wall'' and ''a light switching on and off'' became art. There is no such thing as art, art cannot be defined. There is just good, mediocre and lousy- like- Van Gogh painting.

  • sunset_ stars says:

    But i like it…

  • sunset_ stars says:

    Vango mango tango

  • James H says:

    Very beautiful painting. Unsettling, but not even remotely ugly.

  • Howard Wiggins says:

    To all you language purists: If we were speaking Dutch, then you would be justified in pronouncing the harsh guttural G at the end of Van Gogh. But the video is in English, so "van-goh" is completely acceptable.

    Now, all of you, take a deep breath and unclench.

  • Marc Willms says:

    His name is van gogh and not vengo

  • Fatimah Batara says:

    Welp there goes the Christmas colors lolz

  • Bryan Coombes ART says:

    Interesting take, the explanation in the video does up the tension dramatically to this Van Gogh painting. I will say this though, red and green compliments can be some of the most satisfying and bold colours to use in scenes. I use this combo all the time for paintings that seem to sell readily. People love a red barn juxtaposed against a green field, an old red truck against a forest, a red apple hanging in a tree, etc. The video commentator implies this combo doesn't have a positive counterpart. Great vid though.

  • Bryan Tremblay says:

    I challenge anyone to convince me Van Gogh isn't simply a charlatan. His art isn't expressive, it isn't deeper than any other art and it isn't anything more than what people imposed on him post death.

    I don't think Gogh is a good artist. He understands color control and perspective (and lack thereof). Not impressive IMO. Not worth the merit he receives.

  • StoptheWars says:

    The Cafe Terrace at Night is meant to show how sick and awful the cafe life is; the yellow sulfurous, burning & hellish; the blue starry sky, in contrast, inviting the viewer to leave the awful place.

  • Mr. Nut says:

    wow dude great video. honestly didn't even feel the 7 min pass by. Also, I'm currently taking a modern art history class and were on Van Gogh, so this def added some brief insight on my learnings.

  • Marcel Colquitt says:

    Am i the only 1 who thinks all of his paintings are shit

  • the9file says:

    hittin em wit dat 4:3

  • juls daly says:

    great video!

  • Peter Gibson says:

    Fantastically narrated, with rich and thought-provoking inclusions that encourage we viewers to further ponder the exceptionally nuanced works of a man who may well have never uttered the words "color theory," but absolutely understood the primitive power of this 'phenomenon of simian light sensing.' Note: Complementary colo(u)rs are said to 'lose hue' when combined, which in a way is something far darker (* pun intended) than being simply complementary. These colors are literally at odds with one another and can "destroy" one another if ever they're allowed to mix. This is perhaps the "deepest tension" that underlies masterpieces such as this, namely, that we monkeys have evolved a deep appreciation for both the power and vibrancy of colors juxtaposed and the risk that they may 'fall in on one another,' returning the image, and us, to a state of darkness – a darkness we managed to escape as an essential part of our evolution. Or maybe it's just a hard-to-handle painting, done in purposely hungover tones 🙂

  • fkovacs1 says:

    excellent analysis. tbh, i don't know which complimentary combo jars me more- red/green or violet/yellow; while violet/yellow tends to be more depressive, it can be quite visceral, especially when you are using very vivid shades of the hues.

  • WOMMEL says:

    the text looks french

  • M Wing says:

    That painting is talking about loneliness. The painter always puts him/her self into their paintings and Van was a lonely man. Thanks for the show! :O)

  • Jeter Ridon says:

    wow what an amazing review! 😍😍😍

  • Patti Turville says:

    He was just looking for a reaction from writing this comment in his letter. Artists should be the most critical of their own work. Fake news, he probably loved this one … hahaha ! ! !

  • ·Xamãn says:

    "Vein Goal"

  • Classical Music11 says:

    "Van gock", "Van go", "Van Gough". Why are there so many different pronunciations of his name? and which one is right?

  • Dennis Villafuerte says:

    Binge-watching your channel. Amazing content and the commentaries are so insightful and so professional sounding. The videos are also well made. As a graphic designer these type of content is my cuo of tea. Subscribed. Keep up the excellent work.

  • Rob Lewis says:

    Talk about over-analysis. One of the most overrated artists in history. If any modern artist painted this, people would call it what it is: mediocre at best, shit at worst. But because it's Van Gogh, it's a 'masterpiece'. Give me a break.

  • C Shaffer says:

    It still amazes me that he was unknown in his life. I mean other major artist like Gauguin could clearly see his genius but he was a nobody in his life. Truly the epitome of a great artist in every way.

  • Sliced Grapes says:

    So in French class we have to do projets on artists and my group is doing van gough and I feel really bad foe the man and i knoq the fear of abandonment

  • Leon V says:

    What? van Gogh write in France?

  • {Fhonix} says:

    Not 'go'

  • Amatör Çizimler says:

    Her sanatçının bir dili bir yaşam tarzı vardır eğer bu dili bilmiyorsan sana çok saçma gelir ve estetik olarak bakmaya başlarsın o yüzden SHUT UP YOU İDİOT

  • A Smol Potato says:

    And I’m here thinking “That is gOrgEoUs” with my trash standards

  • Maxie Pattie says:

    People are Gods ugliest master pieces of shit

  • K Roon says:

    All of them are the ugliest

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