. . . Vincent packed up his painting gear and headed to the Place du Forum. By the time he had arrived, night had fallen. The spectacle of an artist clattering his easel into place in the dark, pebbled square may have looked like a joke to the locals who strolled by or sat under the awning of the Grand Cafe du Forum (it was reported with amusement in the local paper). Only a year earlier, Anquetin . . . had painted a similar nocturnal scene: a crowded sidewalk outside a butcher’s shop illuminated only by gas light within the two big gas lanterns hanging form its canopy. Other than the rank of patrons pressed near the orange glow of the windows, the image consisted almost entirely of purple-blue darkness, broken into fragments of hue as if viewed through a blue-glass prism.
Placing himself at exactly the same oblique angle that Anquetin had chosen for his painting, Vincent used the cafe’s huge awning to create the same plunging perspective into the dark street and night sky beyond. He tuned up the gas light until it filled the covered patio with bright yellow and spilled across the Crau-stone pavement in ripples of complementary color. “I often think the night is more alive and more richly colored than the day,” he wrote as he added wide swaths of orange (for the floors) and blue (for the doors) to his Anquetin tribute. — Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith, “Van Gogh: The Life”.