H/B/F 2017: Van Gogh and Rijksmuseum

Amsterdam is home to many fantastic museums, and it’s impossible to see them all in a week.  I saw the big three (the two mentioned here and the Stedelijk), as well as some smaller ones, such as the Bag and Purse Museum and the Amsterdam Museum.

We chose to hit the Van Gogh Museum on a Friday night when it was open late, and we were greeted with a party!  There was live music, vendors, food and drinks in the lobby.  We hadn’t had dinner yet, so we went ahead and enjoyed the scene with some snacks.


The Van Gogh Museum began with a room full of his self-portraits, organized chronologically.  It was interesting to see how his art evolved over time and with his mental illness.  I didn’t realize the scope of his artistic ability, ranging from landscapes and self-portraits to Impressionist work, pieces with Chinese influence and even modern art.

On Saturday, to escape the heat, we heading again into Amsterdam to enjoy some air conditioning at the Rijksmuseum.

Inside, we focused only on the Dutch Golden Age, which is housed in a great gallery, designed specifically for these pieces:

We saw a still life by Pieter Claesz , a Haarlem boy known for his work with light and reflection.  I fell in love with his work in the ‘Slow Food’ exhibition at the Mauritshuis in The Hague.  For more about our trip there, click here.

This piece was on loan from Leiden, which is where I ran my half-marathon!

Along with Rembrandt, Johannes Vermeer is king of the Dutch Masters painters.  We specifically waited to visit the Rijksmuseum until Saturday as his painting, The Milkmaid, had just returned from being on loan to another museum. We visited a museum dedicated to him in Delft, which features reproductions of all his 34 paintings with detailed descriptions of his style and themes.

Below right is ‘Reading a Letter’ and second from right is ‘The Milkmaid.’

Jan Steen, who paints humorous scenes like Norman Rockwell, is another Dutch Master we saw in various museums during our trip.

Finally, here is Rembrandt’s self-portrait as Paul:

Rembrandt’s The Night Watch, hugely famous:

While I can’t say I loved EVERYTHING I saw, I can say that I have a much better understanding of the Dutch Golden Age and the artists who painted during that time period.  I learned to recognize some of the themes and techniques, such as still lifes, landscapes, use of light and textures and a departure from religious scenes.

As we only visited the single gallery (which took almost two hours!), we’ll just have to come back for the rest another time!