Mystery of The Night Café

Hidden Key to the Spirituality of Vincent van Gogh

By Cliff Edwards
Foreword by Diane Apostolos-Cappadona

Subjects: Religion, Christianity, Art, Art Theory, European Studies
Series: Excelsior Editions
Imprint: Excelsior Editions
Paperback : 9781438426129, 134 pages, March 2009
Hardcover : 9781438426112, 134 pages, March 2009

Table of contents

List of Illustrations
Foreword by Diane Apostolos-Cappadona
1. Three Nights in the Devil’s Furnace
2. The Fortunate Journey
3. Seeing What Is Not There
4. Vincent’s Literary Imagination
5. The Bible and the Novel
6. One Word in One Zola Novel
7. The Man in White
8. Each a Love Story
9. A Greater Artist than All Other Artists
10. Refusing Medieval Tapestries
11. Mystery within a Mystery
12. Christus Consolator
13. The Patron Saint of Artists
14. Nature Speaks
15. Nothing More Truly Artistic

Explores the spiritual vision of Van Gogh’s painting The Night Café.


Written like a detective story, this book explores the spirituality of one of the world's most beloved artists, Vincent van Gogh, through one of Western art's most mysterious paintings, The Night Café. Done in almost garish colors, the work depicts a late night in a café serving a poorer element of society, and Van Gogh himself saw both destructive forces and gaiety in the work. With author Cliff Edwards, we follow a trail of clues from a Yale art gallery to a neighborhood in Arles, from a novel by Émile Zola to a largely forgotten image of Jesus that hung in Van Gogh's bedroom. We enter the imagination of Van Gogh through the books he read, the art he admired, and the people with whom he identified, and arrive at startling conclusions that include a new and deeply spiritual understanding of a café after midnight and the "night prowlers" who inhabit it.

Cliff Edwards is Professor of Religious Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University. He is the author of several books, including Van Gogh and God: A Creative Spiritual Quest and The Shoes of Van Gogh: A Spiritual and Artistic Journey to the Ordinary.


"The author's surprising encounter with The Night Café results in a long journey in which scholarship, intense reflection, and personal experience fuse together to create an intriguing saga. " — from the Foreword by Diane Apostolos-Cappadona

"I will never think of Van Gogh in the same way after reading this book. It is not that my views have changed; rather, they have achieved far greater depth. Edwards has convinced me that Van Gogh's religious thought is the key to properly understanding his work. His conclusions are nothing short of brilliant. " — Warren Roberts, author of Jacques-Louis David and Jean-Louis Prieur, Revolutionary Artists: The Public, the Populace, and Images of the French Revolution