Van Gogh Museum

I’m glad we’d bought our tickets for the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam in advance via their website. When we arrived the queues were enormous and chaotic. But with a timed ticket we just had a short while to wait until our slot came up and then we were able to waltz past the main queue and into the museum.* Once inside it was extremely busy (not surprising considering the number of people queuing outside) and with people crowding around the most well known paintings, it wasn’t a relaxing experience to say the least.


It’s well known that during his lifetime Van Gogh was unappreciated, to say the least. He sold very few paintings even though his brother, Theo, was an art dealer and tried to push his work. Alas, it was to no avail. When Vincent died in 1890 Theo was left a large number of works, but he still wasn’t able to sell them. Theo died only a few months after brother so his widow, Johanna, inherited the collection. She became an evangelist for Vincent’s work, arranging exhibitions and publishing the numerous letters Vincent had written to Theo over many years. Gradually, Vincent’s work began to become appreciated and, eventually, he became the “mega-star” artist we all know whose paintings are now worth millions.

The museum has a massive collection of works by Van Gogh, donated by his nephew, Vincent Willem van Gogh, with some by his friends and contemporaries. In fact, it has the largest collection of Van Gogh’s works in the world – 200 paintings, 400 drawings, and 700 letters. The permanent exhibition provided a thorough overview of his development as an artist.

His early works were dark and sombre, typified by The potato eaters (1885)


It was when he moved to Paris that he discovered the Impressionists and turned to the dazzling use of colour producing those pictures for which he is most well known, such as

Bedroom in Arles (1888)


Sunflowers (1889)


and Almond Blossoms (1890)


The influence of Japanese artists being particularly noticeable in the latter.

All of the above, and many, many more, were on display in the museum during our visit. Although the hordes of visitors made it very difficult to stand and contemplate the paintings. The large number of works was also overwhelming and I was feeling almost dizzy by the time we’d worked our way through the galleries.

I’m not convinced that mega-galleries like this are the best way to display art. People rush through the museum ticking off the masterpieces, but I don’t think it’s possible to take it all in – it’s overwhelming. Several visits, would be needed to properly study and appreciate a lifetime’s work and the majority of visitors were tourists, many of whom would probably never have the opportunity to visit again.

The museum has an excellent website with lots of information about Van Gogh’s life and work.

(All pictures sourced from Wikipedia)

* the new entrance hall  was due to open on 5th September. Perhaps that will ease the congestion outside – but I  don’t think it will make it less crowded inside!


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