Thursday, 23 May 2013

Van Gogh Museum Review, Amsterdam, The Netherlands


Van Gogh Museum Review, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

            Located in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, the Van Gogh Museum houses the largest collection of paintings and drawings by Vincent Van Gogh in the entire world. The museum, which first opened in 1973, is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Amsterdam and is the most visited museum in all of the Netherlands. Two buildings comprise the museum: the Rietveld building and the Kurokawa wing (both are named after the architects who designed them). The Rietveld building is the main building that you should visit, as it exhibits the permanent collection, while the Kurokawa wing is used for major temporary exhibitions. When you first enter the Rietveld building, you will see a modern building, painted in almost all white and separated by three distinct floors that you can reach by a main staircase. The first floor houses Van Gogh's work in chronological order, the second floor features exhibits on the restoration of his paintings, and the third floor features work by Van Gogh's contemporaries that relate to the man himself.
Avenue of Poplars in Autumn, Vincent van Gogh

            Floor one is separated by the different periods that defined Van Gogh's life and work: his early work to 1886, his time in Paris from 1886 to 1888, his time in Arles from 1888-89, his time at Saint-Rémy in 1889-90, and his final days at Auver in 1890. Compared to the vibrancy of much of his later work, Van Gogh's work before Paris is much more muted in color and tone. The color palette of these paintings is dark and filled with shades of gray and black, and many of the images are of people painted in grotesque and unflattering fashion. Some of his paintings like Head of a Woman and Head of a Man exemplify this style, as Van Gogh used peasants as his models and sought to highlight their rough features. Three paintings I recommend you check out from this era are Avenue of Poplars in Autumn, The Potato Eaters, and Skull of a Skeleton With Burning Cigarette. The first painting is notable for its symmetrical qualities and distinct use of color, while the last painting is a humorous image of exactly what the title describes. The Potato Eaters, one of Van Gogh's most famous paintings, depicts a group of peasants eating the potatoes they tilled from the ground themselves. You can see the coarseness and ugliness of the models, which was a deliberate attempt by Van Gogh to show the reality of the peasants who lived this lifestyle. His paintings from his time in Paris show his shift in style as Van Gogh's work erred more to the impressionist style. Here, the color of his paintings are brighter and his portraits are more traditionally beautiful and impressionist in style. From this era, Wheatfield With a Lark is a good representation of Van Gogh's transitioning style. As he moved to Arles, France, Van Gogh would continue to produce some of his most notable works.
Wheatfield with a Lark, Vincent van Gogh

            Bedroom in Arles, Gauguin's Chair, and The Yellow House are three paintings from Van Gogh's time in Arles that you should pay attention to. All three paintings are images from Van Gogh's time at the Yellow House, where he stayed in Arles. The Bedroom is an image of Van Gogh's own room that is remarkable for the use of color and composition. The whole room appears slightly askew, and the contrast in color between the bright yellow and blue creates an image that will hold your eyes. Gauguin's Chair is an example of Van Gogh's still life work, and the way in which he captures the light and shadows reflected by the candle is unique to Van Gogh's artistry. The Yellow House is a simple couple of works that showcase Van Gogh's eye for capturing the same image in multiple ways, as you can see both a watercolor and a painting of the house. As you move on, you will see paintings from the last periods of Van Gogh's life, when he committed himself to a mental-health clinic in Saint-Rémy and later moved out to Auver to be near his personal physician and his brother Theo. His paintings from this time period are characterized as his most impressionistic, and he often painted images of the views he had from where he was staying (The Garden of St. Paul's Hospital and View of Auvers as examples). There are few images of people, and many of his works from this time period are of landscapes and nature. Some of my favorites include the Almond Blossoms series, Wheatfield with a Reaper, and Wheatfield with Crows (I'm a fan of wheatfields obviously). His Almond Blossoms paintings are beautiful depictions of floral imagery and color, while the wheatfield paintings show a contrast in his representation of the fields: one is bright and sunny while the other is dark and gloomy. Wheatfield with Crows was painted in the final weeks of Van Gogh's life, and some consider it to be his final work and a reflection of his coming end. Although there is a nightmarish quality to the painting (Van Gogh wanted to express sadness and extreme loneliness) it also retains a magical quality that is evident in his other famous works such as Starry Night. Overall, the first floor is laid out in the perfect way for you to explore the gradual shifts in Van Gogh's style as his career progressed.
Bedroom in Arles, Vincent van Gogh

            The second and third floor are also worth visiting as they relate to Van Gogh and also show his influence on art in his lifetime. On the second floor you can see how restoration keeps a painting vibrant and in excellent condition, and you can learn how the restoration process attempts to keep the original impact of the painting largely intact. The third floor contains many works by some of Van Gogh's contemporaries, including Paul Gauguin, Manet, Monet, and Paul Signac. These range from impressionist and post-impressionist art, to paintings depicting Van Gogh himself. For those who love art and find themselves endlessly fascinated by Van Gogh's work, a trip here is a must on your visit to Amsterdam.
            -By Phillip Storm, Arts Correspondent, VisitMuseums.com

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