So, this is a real change of pace from my normal emails. But Amsterdam is more than hash Kasbahs, brown cafes, red light district, Heineken beer, canals, and Rembrandt.
Earlier this month, a glow-in-the-dark bike path inspired by Vincent van Gogh’s famous “Starry Night” was unveiled in the town of Nuenen in the Netherlands. Illuminated by solar-powered LED lights, the cycling route kicks off Van Gogh 2015, a year-long cultural celebration of the famous Dutch artist.
I wish I would have known this. I have an upcoming trip to the Champagne region of France in April. Had I known of this great Van Gogh celebration, I would have extended my trip to include the Netherlands, another of my favorite places to visit. But this reminds me of my visits to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.
From Van Gogh Europe:
Vincent van Gogh lived from 1853 to 1890. At that time nobody appreciated him as an artist. Van Gogh is now among the top world-famous artists. His works are on show all around the world. To this day many people are inspired by his paintings, drawings and letters. What is unusual is that in addition to his paintings and drawings, the locations he lived and worked in can still be admired. From the Netherlands to the South of France.
Various museums, cultural institutions, towns and organisations from the Netherlands, Belgium and France took the initiative at the beginning of 2012 to inaugurate Van Gogh Europe.
On 29 July 2015 it will be exactly 125 years since Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890) died. The Van Gogh Europe Foundation, a collaboration of around 30 organisations is seizing this opportunity to honour the Dutch artist under the theme ‘125 years of inspiration’. The stimulus for this is that the artist inspires many people to this very day and that he is still very much ‘alive’, even 125 years after his death. Activities will be organised throughout the year in various towns in the Netherlands, Belgium, France and England that featured in the life and work of the artist: prominent exhibitions, cultural events, digital applications etc. Never before has there been cooperation on this scale between the organisations (museums and heritage sites) which are actively engaged in preserving and promoting Van Gogh’s heritage.
The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam houses the largest collection of the most popular artist in the world. Each year, 1.6 million people visit, making it one of the 25 most popular museums in the world. In addition to visiting the Amsterdam museum, I have seen his works on tour twice, once in San Francisco at the de Young Museum, and once in Los Angeles, and the Los Angeles County Museum. Neither California exhibit was enjoyable due to the density of the crowds attending even though we were assigned time slots for entry. The only way to really see and appreciate his work is to visit the Van Gogh Museum.
The crowds were much worse than this!!!
Is this not more preferable?
The museum has over 200 paintings and 500 drawings, as well as some work by other famous artists. The building itself was designed by Gerrit Rietveld, but completed in 1973, after his death. And an eye-catching elliptical wing was added in 1999, designed by Kisho Kurokawa. It is located in Museum Square, between Stedelijk Museum, Rijksmuseum, and the Concertgebouw. And most fortunately, I was able to visit all three.
Most people do not know that the vast majority of his works passed quickly from his younger brother, Theo. He died just six months later, leaving his widow, Johanna van Gogh-Bonner his collection. It passed on to her son, Vincent Willem van Gogh in 1925. Then it was loaned to the Stedelijk Museum, and ultimately the van Gogh Foundation in 1962. It was housed in a temporary museum until the permanent museum was completed in 1973.
I did not remember that in 1991, twenty paintings were stolen. They were recovered 35 minutes later in an abandoned car. Four men, including two guards, were convicted and given six or seven year sentences. In 2002, two more paintings were stolen, and never recovered, though the thieves were caught and convicted.
Perhaps my favorite, painted in 1889, housed in the MOMA in New York, along with the song by Don McLean, named “Vincent”. The view is from his asylum room St. Remy de Provence, just before sunrise. And this is his best known painting. He was prolific during his one year stay in the asylum, which catered to the wealthy. Van Gogh had a second floor bedroom, but a ground floor painting studio.
Brilliant, yet unstable throughout his career, he was poor, mostly unknown throughout his career, and hindered by his mental illness. Perhaps it sounds like the story of many struggling artists. On July 29, 1890, at the young age of 37, he died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was fluent in English, German, French, and his native Dutch. He loved English culture and Dickens. He actually taught in a boys school, and even preached to the congregation. He was attracted to troubled women.
Also unknown to many, his brother Theo actually offered money to Paul Gauguin, to keep an eye on Vincent! The story goes that they had an argument, Gauguin left, Vincent went to a brothel. He paid for a prostitute named Rachel, and then handed her his bloody ear. The people in Arles went so far as to sign a petition saying he was dangerous. He began painting while on the hospital grounds, and by November, 1889, he was invited to exhibit his paintings, including “Starry Night” in Brussels.
This museum is a must stop on the continent.