Amsterdam: Van Gogh Museum

Loyal readers will remember that I love love love the Impressionists. Van Gogh is, of course, a master and the museum dedicated to his life and work was my first stop in Amsterdam.

The permanent exhibit opens with a map and a timeline. I’m a big fan of basic context and overview as I think it makes art more accessible.

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The museum’s collection is extensive (the biggest collection of Van Goghs in the world) and laid out to roughly chronicle his life. It opens with sketches and still lifes completed during his brief fling as an art student in The Hague and Antwerp then continues with his experimentations with color and process while living in Arles before finishing with his extensive work while in a sanatorium in Saint-Remy.

This tree was one of my favorites and highlights several of the things I find so fascinating about Van Gogh. The painting is part of a series that Van Gogh willed to be displayed together. The colors are incredible, one tree trunk alone has greens, pinks, blues and purples all mingling with the obvious browns. The brushstrokes for which he is famous are evident and individually confusing but unite to form a cohesive form.

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Van Gogh was troubled but not without many friends. He was close with his brother, Theo, an art collector. They exchanged many letters, often with Vincent’s sketches and preparations for upcoming paintings, that are displayed in the museum. Van Gogh was also good friends with Paul Gauguin and Emile Bernard. In one of the more cheeky parts of the exhibit two portraits are displayed side by side. Apparently Van Gogh had asked Gauguin and Bernard to paint portraits of each but instead they each painted self-portraits with the other in a smaller picture in the background. Gotta love a good prank. 🙂

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Van Gogh produced many sketches that he considered separate and distinct works of art. While many of them were done with an eye toward a later painting, many more are experiments with technique and form. This sketch was my favorite because you can really see where his brush technique comes from.

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The museum was really wonderful. Well laid out with an easy to understand progression. They even had a great museum shop. Check out this limited edition Van Gogh skateboard. Never too early to start your Christmas shopping!

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