Our last stop in Amsterdam before catching the train back to London was the Van Gogh Museum. You’d think by our fifth day in Amsterdam, we would have learned that when you are visiting one of the top tourist destinations in the city, you need to get there early and/or purchase your tickets online. Instead, we took our time packing up, checking out of the hotel, and grabbing breakfast. By the time we got to the museum, it was after 11am. The line was long, but we were hopeful that it would move fast and we’d have a decent amount of time to spend inside before we had to make our way to the train station.
A half hour passed and it felt like we’d barely moved. The Van Gogh Museum is just as popular as the Rijksmuseum, but it’s not even close to as large. To let more visitors in, museum staff have to wait for others to leave. I kept checking the clock, afraid that by the time we made it to the front, we’d have to turn around and leave. Even the line for people who purchased their tickets beforehand was moving slowly. It took almost two hours, but we finally made it in!
The Van Gogh Museum is made up of four floors and an extra wing that was temporarily closed when we visited. Each floor has a unique focus, including the current exhibition running through the 12th of January, Van Gogh At Work, found on both the ground floor and the third floor. There is a massive amount of art to see here – over 200 pieces by Van Gogh alone! But you’ll also find many pieces from Van Gogh’s peers as well. You really need at least two hours to see it all, including the special film on Van Gogh that runs in the extension off of the museum shop.
As I was thinking about the best way to describe our visit to the museum, I realized there was no better way than to simply share some of my favorite pieces on display. If you’re visiting the Van Gogh Museum, you absolutely don’t want to miss these! (I have applied minimal editing to the photos below. Seeing such great works of art on a computer screen hardly does them justice, but it’s better than nothing, right?)
The Harvest, 1888
The Bedroom, 1888
Pollard Willow, 1882
Worn Out, 1882
Boulevard de Clichy, 1887
Old Vineyard with Peasant Woman, 1890
Head of a Skeleton with a Burning Cigarette, 1886
Tree Roots, 1890
Tree Roots is generally acknowledged as being Van Gogh’s very last work. He did not complete it before he died. The top is almost finished, but the lower half was left incomplete.
There are so many more pieces I could share, but to keep the amount of pictures in this post from getting out of hand, I’ll stop with these. I was very happy to discover that cameras are allowed in the museum, although photos of some works are not allowed even with the flash turned off. (Van Gogh’s famous Sunflowers still life was one of those, unfortunately.)
So much to see, so much to admire, so much to learn. There is certainly a lot more to Vincent van Gogh than “the guy who cut his ear off”! Contrary to popular belief, Van Gogh was not born with artistic talent. He had to attend art school, study, and learn from others to cultivate his talent. By experimenting with different painting techniques, he developed his own distinctive swirling brushstroke seen in many of his most famous works. Color was of utmost importance in his paintings because it was his form of personal expression. Van Gogh’s paintings are among the most expensive ever sold, rivaling those of Pablo Picasso. A few have sold for upwards of $100 million! He certainly had his share of troubles, but instead of letting them hold him back, he used them as fuel to create hundreds of truly magnificent works of art.
The Van Gogh Museum is open every day. The entrance fee for adults is €15, but children are free.
Sidenote: If you’re looking for Starry Night, arguably Van Gogh’s most famous painting, you won’t find it here. It is displayed in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
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