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Did I go to the Vincent Van Gogh museum to see art? No, I met Van Gogh.

It was a crisp August afternoon in Amsterdam. Summer hadn’t completely left Holland, but the brisk air justified a light jacket and a cup of hot chocolate. Like many of the tourists waiting outside the Van Gogh museum, I thought I knew the Dutch artist. I’ve seen Starry Night a multitude of times at the MoMA in New York, his self portraits at the Chicago Art Institute, and have studied his artwork in classes. This wasn’t an introduction, it was a reunion.

Little did I know, I had only scratched the surface of one of the most famous artists to have ever lived. The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam takes the visitor through the painter’s heart, mind, and soul and does so in such a compelling way. When you enter the building, you are introduced to Vincent in the best way possible- through his self portraits. It is here where I learned that much of what was going on in his mind was never truly reflected on the canvas. Behind each painting, the viewer gains a more comprehensive glimpse into the life of this incredibly complex man.

On the first floor, we see Vincent’s first stabs at creating art. These are not the Van Goghs we’re used to. Idyllic landscapes and vibrant colors are replaced by bleak, somber tones depicting impoverished life in the most honest way possible. The Potato Eaters stands out from the crowd. The audience becomes a fly on the wall of a destitute family in the Dutch countryside. In the next few rooms, we are allowed to witness Van Gogh’s evolution, which was inspired by Impressionists like Monet and Renoir. His view of the world dramatically shifted. His new mission was to capture nature’s beauty and vibrancy through elegant strokes of the paintbrush. His mantra: a study in color.

As you ascend the galleries, you begin to know the real Van Gogh. Despite the stunning artwork that adorns the wall, his emotional and psychological baggage clings on to you. When you learn about his eventual suicide, you can’t help but cry. Someone so brilliant and passionate was suddenly ripped out of my life.

I entered the museum that chilly August day hoping to see Van Gogh. Instead, I met Vincent.

Vincent Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam – A Moving Tribute to my Favorite Artist

The Potato Eaters
Source: worldartresources.com

Vincent Van Gogh is my most favorite painter.  No ifs or buts.  While I am absolutely in awe of so many different artists, Van Gogh occupies a very special place in my mind and heart.  My first exposure to him was with the “Sunflowers” series of paintings.  Was it my favorite color yellow that drew me in?  Was it the random positioning of the flowers? Was it the distinctive brushstrokes?  Hard to tell, except from that point on looking up his sketches and paintings and reading his letters to his brother Theo became a journey.

And then came my maiden trip to Amsterdam.  I could barely curtail my excitement as I landed up at the Van Gogh Museum.  My husband knew about my obsession.  My father in law probably thought I was a bit crazy to tear up at the sight of a museum.  But, it was a truly special moment for me and what came next was simply awesome.

Do you ever get the feeling from reading about someone or someplace that when you walk in there, everything feels like Deja Vu?  Well, even though I had never set foot in the museum, I felt like I had already been there….many times.

It is very difficult for me to say what the “ultimate” memory was.  To me, it was a gift to be able to see his paintings and drawings up close, to see the brush strokes, to see the vividness of the colors, to experience his madness and his spirit.  There are a few paintings that struck an emotional chord more than others.

– The drawing “The Head of a Woman” which was a prelude to his Potato Eaters along with the actual painting were incredibly moving simply because they were his earliest works at authenticity and very much unappreciated.

– His “Self Potrait of An Artist” when seen up close reflects such intensity and pain in his eyes, that it feels like he is right there a century later.

– An absolutely joyous “Sunflowers” which made me feel like the flowers were on a dancing journey in the vase.

– I’m not sure what the “Skull of a Skeleton with a Burning Cigarette” was meant to convey, but to me it seems like Van Gogh was trying to convey irony, art and some self wit in this work.

– And last but not least, “Wheatfield with Crows”, mentioned to be his last painting.  This was the final painting on my journey and it did its job in flashing the life of an unfulfilled genius through my mind bringing me to tears.

Whether or not you are a Van Gogh fan, if you are ever in Amsterdam, do spend some time at this lovely museum.    It is a beautiful building and an amazing lesson on life and art.  I have been back on every visit and each one opens up one more little known aspect of my most favorite artist on planet earth.

To learn more about the Vincent Van Gogh Museum, click here:

http://www.vangoghmuseum.nl/vgm/index.jsp?lang=en

Amsterdam – Let Me Count All the Ways I Love Thee!

Amsterdam

By Lakshmi:

I would go back to Amsterdam in a heart beat….any day, any time.  The city, always special to my husband and me, now occupies prime real estate in the hearts of our kids as well.  So, what is it that makes the city special?  While that is a tall order to answer in a single post, here are the 12 top reasons why I love this city so much.

  1. The city houses the shrine of my all time favorite painter Vincent Van Gogh.  On my very first trip there, I was moved to tears thinking about Van Gogh’s state as he painted The Potato Eaters early in his career and Wheatfield with Crows before his death.
  2. The Anne Frank House and how no reading of the diary or rendition on-screen  penetrates you like an actual walk through the house does.
  3. Ambling through the Jewish quarter, visiting a synagogue and thinking about the history that unfolded here.
  4. Eating falafels at the many many small eateries, the sauces and toppings still lingering on my taste buds.
  5. Walking and biking the city and discovering something anew each time.
  6. The many faces of Dam Square – Feeding the pigeons amongst the crowds, having a blast at the best amusement rides, just sitting there for hours people watching, hearing tram drivers say “The Dam” in their firm deep voices.
  7. Spending a leisurely day at Vondelpark and discovering a gem in the Eye Film Institute.
  8. Donning heavy clothing to sit and dance at the ice bar (yeah, so it is a gimmick, and we were happy to partake in the experience).
  9. The many design shops that I want to jam into my suitcase each time.
  10. Walking through an actual red-light district and have people stare/approach you.
  11. Watching people emerging in and out of cafes looking very happy in the land of legal marijuana.
  12. Realizing a dream by visiting the Keukenhof gardens with the acres and acres of tulips in bloom.

Of course, there are many more reasons why this city is so special.  And I will be posting in detail on these and other experiences in future posts.

If you have a favorite aspect of Amsterdam, we would so love to hear from you.