It is painted in the medium of oil on canvas. The painting was completed by Van Gogh when he lived at the Yellow House in Arles, France. The painting has been dated to 1888, in mid september. The Cafe Terrace at Night is not signed by Van Gogh, but has been described and discussed in several letters by the artist.
It is still possible to this day when visiting Arles to stand at the site that Van Gogh composed the painting. Vincent Van Gogh assembled his easel at night and looked towards the lit seating area of one of Arles most popular coffee houses and cafe.
On the right side of the painting as you look at it you can see the contrast to the brightness of the cage as you look at the darkness of the rue du palais. You can also see a small lit shop on the right hand side which Van Gogh depicted against the darkness of the rue du palais. However, he did not include the visible roman remains in the street beside this small shop.
The Cafe Terrace at Night is currently on display at the Kroller-Muller Museum in Ottterlo, Netherlands. There is also a preparatory study of the painting by Van Gogh which can be found at the Dallas Museum of Art.
One of Van Gogh's famous letters was written after completing the Cafe Terrace at night. In it, he describes to his sister the joy that the work of completing the painting had given him in the last few days. Van Gogh in particular describes the figures on the terrace that are drinking, and the yellow lantern that hangs above them. Van Gogh also vividly describes the colours seen in the street of purples and pinks and yellows. Colour is a very important component in several of Van Gogh's paintings, particularly those that he composed at night. His letters to his sister describe vividly the scenes colours.
The first time that the painting was exhibited, it was actually called the Coffeehouse in the evening. However, it was thought to not truly depict the scene that Van Gogh was trying to portray. This painting was the first of a series of paintings in which Van Gogh used starry skies as a background, a year before the other famous painting The Starry Night.