Monday, November 4, 2013

Amsterdam - Day Three - The Van Gogh Museum

Day three in Amsterdam was all about the Van Gogh museum. We were up early for breakfast at Hotel Fita then it was off to the Van Gogh museum.

Actually, the museum is at the other end of the street of the Hotel Fita, maybe a two minute walk. Even though we were at the museum before it opened we were still behind a group of very enthusiastic Japanese tourists. Still, when the doors opened the Japanese tourists went through the door for groups and my wife and I walked into the museum, bought our tickets and we were on our way in less than two minutes.

Since the art in the Van Gogh museum is arranged chronologically starting on the first floor, it would not make sense to start on the top floor and work our way down so we followed along with the crowd going up floor by floor.

The focus of the show was the artist at work. This is a self portrait of Van Gogh at work.

This one of my favorite Van Gogh paintings. It is one thing to see it in a book or on line but when you see the actual picture you experience the texture and dimensionality of the painting. You experience the brilliance of the colors that Van Gogh used. It is something that can only be experience when you are in the presence of the actual painting.

One of Van Gogh's early studies of an old pair of boots, not an untypical subject for students. Apparently Van Gogh would buy old shoes and condition them by dragging them through the mud and dirt until they were interesting enough to paint.

This study is called Homeward Bound. It was one of Van Gogh's student paintings.

This is a chalk drawing called the Discus Thrower.

This painting was from the period when Van Gogh lived with Paul Gaugin in Arles. You start to see the beginnings of Van Gogh's distinctive style emerging,

These are watercolor drawings that Van Gogh did. He felt that he was making headway in his use of color and handling a brush.

As he was learning his craft, Van Gogh made many paintings of peasants working in the field. These studies eventually led him to his painting the Potato Eaters.

Although the Potato Eaters had many technical shortcomings it projected an ethos that Van Gogh liked..

I like this still life because it is a great example of Van Gogh's distinctive brushstroke technique and use of color.

This is a painting of Claude Monet. It is bulb fields and windmills near Rijnsburg in the Netherlands.

This painting by Pissarro is an example of his pointillistic style using unmixed colored dots to create an unified painting. Van Gogh considered Pissarro to be his mentor.

A self portrait from 1887

One of Van Gogh's most successful paintings where he uses color effectively creating wonderful harmony of color and hue. No wonder it is one of Van Gogh's most famous paintings.

In 1888 Van Gogh shared this house with Paul Gauguin.

We know that Van Gogh actually painted this piece on the beach because there is sand imbedded in the paint. The way he uses blue and green, and yellow and white created the sense of waves and light reflecting off the waves. You can almost smell the fresh air and hear the waves crashing on the rocks.

Van Gogh painted these two paintings about a year apart. The second version was painted while Van Gogh was in the asylum so he had to paint it from memory. The differences in coloring are significant.

Van Gogh considered The Harvest to be the crowning achievement of his time in Arles, France

This work, Sunset at Montmajour was bought by a Norwegian collector as a Van Gogh then it fell into doubt until it was proven to be an authentic Van Gogh.

Van Gogh studied Delacroix on how to create and draw figures. This is one of his chalk drawings.

Van Gogh did this painting while he was at the asylum. When he ran out of canvas he used paper.

Van Gogh did this piece in 1890 using pencil, brush, oil paint and watercolor on paper.

This exhibit was unique in that it displayed many of Van Gogh's drawings and studies from all periods of his development.

This is another study from 1885.

I could go on and on about the Van Gogh exhibit but I think I have made this post too long already. If you are in Amsterdam there are two places you have to see, the Ryjks Museum and the Van Gogh Museum. These are both "must sees".
We spent most of the morning at the Van Gogh museum. After lunch we headed off to the Albert Cuyp Market which turned out to be a giant open air flea market with some fresh fruit and vegetables. We did buy fresh figs and pomegranates. I did make one intriguing find in an antique store. I found several versions of Chinese porcelain Qing dynasty officials. When I turned the statues over I saw the impression of the artist chop with a reference to the Qing dynasty. They looked genuine enough that I would have bought a pair of the statues except that I did not relish the idea of trucking them through Europe with us so I left them where they were.
In the evening after dinner, we took the tram down to the Red Light district. Every tourist in Amsterdam has to make at least one visit to the Red Light district. The tram drops you off more or less in the middle of the Red Light district. You have to walk across the square in front of Saint Nicolas' church to the canal. The "coffee shops" where you don't buy coffee and the prostitutes are arranged along the canal. It is easy to find the coffee shops, you just have to follow your nose. As you walk past the coffee shop the smell of marijuana is literally intoxicating. It is not a good idea to linger too long, unless you go in for that sort of thing. The prostitutes are equally easy to find. They are standing behind their windows. Some are on the second floor of buildings but others are on the first floor. We watched a pretty young woman in a florescent bikini trying to entice a group of young men up to her room. We kept walking as they were trying to make up their mind. It was interesting but at the same time there was a sad and seedy desperation about the area. It was worth a visit but we don't think we would visit the area again.
Since it was our last night in Amsterdam we want to take in as much of the city as possible so instead of taking the tram back to the Hotel Fita we decided to walk back to the hotel. We had a map of the area and we estimated that it would take us less than an hour to walk back to the hotel. The safest route was to follow the tram tracks as the twisted and wound their way along. There were a lot of interesting things to look at, stores and restaurants and people walking, talking, riding their bicycles or sitting alone or in small groups on the street. Eventually, we made our way back to the main shopping area. We saw an McDonalds so we went in to look. They had ice cream on for the equivalent of 0.60 dollars Canadian which was too good to resist so we bought two ice cream cones and continued our walk. We saw a huge souvenir shop and went in to buy porcelain Christmas ornaments. After a time we arrived back at the Hotel Fita. That was enough touring for one day.
After some Qigong and Taijiquan practice it was time to end day three in Amsterdam.

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