Explore a VR recreation of Van Gogh’s masterpiece ‘The Night Cafe’

[I wonder what Van Gogh would think about this use of modern technology to expand on his work; this is from Good magazine, where the story includes more images and a 1:23 minute video; follow the link to the Oculus Mobile VR Jam for more information. –Matthew]

'The  Night Cafe' VR screenshot

Explore This Gorgeous Virtual Recreation of a Van Gogh Masterpiece

by Rafi Schwartz
May 13, 2015

Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh is widely held as one of the most significant and influential artists of all time. Van Gogh’s explorations of light and color blazed a luminescent path upon which subsequent artists have spent entire careers following to varying—but never equal—degrees of success. His brilliance lies in the ability to evoke a dream-like sense, in which objects, landscapes, and people appear both intimately real and hauntingly “other.” His paintings are textured (in terms of both “layers of meaning,” as well as globs of paint) in such a way as to make an observer want to crawl inside and explore every inch of the world as van Gogh saw it, full of warmth and color.

And now you can.

As part of this year’s Oculus’ Mobile VR Jam, developer Mac Cauley has rendered an entire virtual environment based on van Gogh’s iconic 1888 painting Le café de nuit. Cauley’s “The Night Cafe” is as close as a person can get to being immersed in the ambient glow of van Gogh’s world.

As Cauley explains:

“While creating the environments of these paintings in 3D space I’ve had to expand on areas that can’t be seen; rooms behind doors, objects hidden from view, people turned away from the viewer. It’s been an interesting process in using reference material from Van Gogh and other expressionist painters but also imagining what might have been there, just off the edges of the canvas.”

To that end, his virtual environment contains much more than the single room depicted in van Gogh’s painting. Nestled within the familiar scene are doors to other rooms, hidden Easter eggs for Post-Impressionist art enthusiasts, and even a rendering of the painter himself, based, it appears, on an 1889 self-portrait from his Saint-Remy period.

While a digital recreation, regardless of how detailed and imaginative it may be, is no replacement for the real thing, Cauley’s homage to van Gogh may give seasoned art lovers a newfound perspective on a classic piece, while simultaneously introducing uninitiated fans to the Dutch painter’s catalog.

Those of you with a VR headset can download Cauley’s “The Night Cafe” and fully explore this beautiful imaginary world yourselves.


2 responses to “Explore a VR recreation of Van Gogh’s masterpiece ‘The Night Cafe’”

  1. This is great. Rob Wright created a mockup of the Starry Night painting in three dimensions in Second Life back in 2007, using its construction as the material for an outstanding machinima video that uses Don MacLean’s “Vincent” as the soundtrack: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vV1YbWBSXS8. Cauley’s video is a wonderful sequel and extension of that.

  2. I did not try it, but I like the idea of a creation with VR including emotion transcription. Van Gogh was depressed when he painted this.
    Looking at the video, I was surprised by the sound, the music is not the one of a “cafe de nuit”…which was a miserable place where Van Gogh had to stay. With the VR headset, it could be interesing to provide a non realistic sensation, a believable experience with essential parts of the painting…maybe adding the discussions between people, or a distorsion in the sound ? Well, it is a beautiful project.

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