Van Gogh Museum: Amsterdam's Must See Venue

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Slug on August 5, 2012

The other "must see" attraction we deemed necessary for our first time visitor to Amsterdam was the Van Gogh Museum. The museum is a couple of mile walk from Central Station, so we took advantage of the hike to wander through one of the main shopping streets on the way to our destination.

Unfortunately, you are never going to get the museum to yourself so I steeled myself for people walking in front of me, bored teenagers scuffing their feet behind loud speaking Americans and massed tour groups huddling around the most famous paintings. I just took my time and slowly got to the paintings I wanted to rediscover (having been to the Van Gogh museum on a number of occasions now, I don't try to study every painting).

One tip is to buy your tickets before you arrive to save some of the queuing. While the website doesn't say it, there is a special entrance for those that have prepaid. You can buy tickets on the web and for completely instant access you can visit the information centre in one of the diamond centres across the road and buy your tickets there.

Another tip is to dine at the rather good Van Gogh Museum cafe; we had a very nice salad at the museum in relative quiet (just try to avoid the obvious lunch time beloved of tour groups).

The Van Gogh Museum may disappoint some as much of the displays are not by Van Gogh; instead, it is a comprehensive look at how he influenced and what influenced him. So, we have paintings that Van Gogh would have been looking at when he started out, and from those artists he met in Paris which influenced the change in his style from the traditional dark Dutch style to the bright new impressionist style. Later you see art from the early 1900s influenced by Van Gogh.

There are however still Van Gogh's galore including sunflowers and irises. When I first went to the museum 20 years ago, there were a lot of early Van Gogh's painted in the Dutch style. As the man had little cash these were largely of his dinner; potatoes and the like, and to be honest once you had seen one or two you got the picture. Over the years this section has diminished, although there is still a good representation of how his art developed as he became more accomplished and confident.

One thing that always surprises me is that as a "classical" artist representing objects, Van Gogh is not that good a painter (unlike say Picasso who could (had he wanted to) drawn a perfect representation). What shines out is his technical ability and his later eye for colour and use of unusual perspective.

I always reflect that Van Gogh only signed those paintings he was pleased with, and many of those later works (often painted at the rate of one a day) remain unsigned as his illness and frustrations meant he was less and less satisfied with his progress. It is well worth seeing these paintings in the flesh - seeing the brush strokes is so much better than just looking at a poster.

The museum doesn't make anything of the recent claims that contrary to shooting himself, Van Gogh was shot by a drunken friend in an accident, and that Van Gogh simply implied he had shot himself in order not to implicate his friend. I think many prefer the image of the tortured artist.

At 14 Euro, the Van Gogh is very reasonably priced, and is not too huge to be over facing. I enjoy visiting the museum and it is usually one of the places I aim to visit each time I come to Amsterdam.

Tip: we usually time it so that we can visit the fun House of Bols opposite afterwards – this is a place where rather than be stimulated by sight, smell and taste is more important. For 13 Euros you get a free cocktail and a couple of Jenever samples.
Van Gogh Museum
Paulus Potterstraat 7
Amsterdam, Netherlands, 1071 CX
+31 (20) 570 52 00

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