The fabulous Rijksmuseum might be the best modern art museum in the world. As the Dutch national museum, it houses over eight thousands pieces of great art, the most famous Rembrandt work, “The Night Watch”. It opened its doors back in 1800 under the name “Nationale Kunstgalerij”, and located in The Hague. It moved to the new capital city of Amsterdam in 1808, based in the royal palace on Dam Square.
It was King Louis Napoleon who ordered the move to Amsterdam. Through various moves and additions, from Trippenhuis to the current building in 1885, designed by noted Dutch architect, Pierre Cuypers. There have been many renovations (last in 2003) over the years. The reconstruction of the main museum was done in 2012-2014. My very first visit here, in 1971, was perhaps the first time in my life (at the age of 24) that I spent more than half a day in any museum.
The Dutch masters, Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Frans Hals are featured, though the museum holds over a million pieces of art. Around 2.4 million people visit this museum each year.
But the 1642 painting by Rembrandt, “The Night Watch” is arguably the finest painting in the world. It certainly is the most famous Dutch painting from the Golden Age. The three main characteristics are its size, measuring 11.91 feet by 14.34 feet. Second, it makes effective use of tenebrism, light and shadow. And third, it depicts the perception of motion in a traditionally static military portrait.
Night Watch depicts Captain Frans Cocq (dressed in black with a red sash) and his lieutenant, leading the company. Rembrandt is able to lead us to three main elements: the two men in the center, and the small girl in the left center background.
Through the years, several attempts at vandalizing the painting have taken place, most recently in 1990. I cannot imagine why someone could do this. It is a truly magnificent experience to be in the same room with this famous work.
Among the many artists are: Rembrandt van Rijn, Frans Hals, Johannes Vermeer, Aelbert Cuyp, Jan Steen, Ferdinand Bol, Jan Brueghel, Jan de Baen, Willem Heda, Peter Paul Rubens, Vincent van Gogh, Anthony van Duyk, Albrecht Durer, Rene Lalique, to name only a few. To top it off, a small street ensemble was playing Handel in the huge alcove under the museum.
Am I going to spend the better part of a day in here again? I don’t know, but it is possible, despite my love for exploring this great city. I would rather walk around outside, as it is a great day to be in Amsterdam. I may even go for the famous rijstafel, a dinner of about twenty small and spicy dishes, served with rice or noodles.
There is just too much to see and do here, a much different experience than South America or Asia. But people, both locals and visitors seem to be in a great mood. The outdoor cafes are full of people enjoying the great weather. I am one of them. Perhaps I have been smitten by Europe as I was back in 1971?
So, I hit the daily double, getting to visit both the van Gogh Museum and Rijksmuseum in a single day. I am in museum heaven!!!!