The lauded museums of the world – the Louvre, El Prado, the Metropolitan Museum of Art – silently praise the masterpieces held within. Visitors know and accept the grandeur or artistic importance of a work simply due to its presence in the museum. An explanation or flowery introduction is not necessarily needed to explain the significance of a Degas or a Rembrandt.
But it was the ways in which the Van Gogh Museum deviated from these classic museums that impressed me so much. Detailed information cards accompanied each painting as I made my way chronologically through Van Gogh’s life. For instance, I was informed that The Potato Eaters was painted as an attempt to show the true hardships of poverty through careful attention to detail, an aspect of life the painter felt was not accurately represented. This information was not only interesting, but also offered a perspective not usually given by a museum; visitors’ attention was called to the inaccurate perspective in the late artist’s The Bedroom. One room in the exhibit held multiple paintings that had been scanned with UV, Infrared, and X-Ray lights to reveal preliminary sketches or entirely different paintings. The exhibit ended with Van Gogh’s foray into Asian-inspired art and included contemporary examples that served as his point of influence.
The experience the Van Gogh Museum provided was artistically and intellectually stimulating. Throughout the course of the museum, my conception of Van Gogh was stretched beyond the signature pieces such as Irises or Self Portrait with Felt Hat. In addition to being able to see some of the most famous Van Gogh paintings, the wealth of intimate information and the inclusion of atypical exhibits are what gave me a true understanding of this Dutch painter.
Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam is located: Stadhouderskade 55 1072 AB Amsterdam, Netherlands