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Rembrandt at the Rijksmuseum/Van Gogh Museum

Yesterday was the raison d’etre of our trip – a visit to the Rijksmuseum for “all the Rembrandts”, a retrospective to celebrate the 350th year of the Netherlands’ most famous artist.

Although it was heralded as the biggest collection ever of Rembrandts, his Night Watch was in the permanent collection and this housed in five rooms.

Many were small drawings and hard to appreciate as each room was overcrowded.

I was underwhelmed but – moving onto the permanent collection – in the Gallery of Honour were some of his larger canvases and other fine examples of the Golden Age of Dutch painting in the 17th century by Vermeer and Hals. Although Rembrandt had this wonderful gift for inner light, I find the Dutch school rather dark and sombre.

The Rijkmuseum had a 375 million euro renovation. This took ten years partly because the powerful cycling lobby insisted on the retention of the cycle path which runs right through the middle of the museum. The cyclist won so the architects created a lower atrium uniting both parts.

I walked to the Van Gogh museum nearby only to be informed you could only buy tickets online. This was not true as at the museum shop in the complex these were on sale.

After the Dutch school the luminousity and colour of Van Gogh were a breath of fresh air.

Much is made of his mental illness and severing of his ear but even in his darkest hours in the asylum at St Remy he was a most productive painter and his output such as Autumn Blossom for his newly-born nephew strangely peaceful and calm.

The hero(ine) of the Van Gogh story is not so much his supportive brother Theo but Theo’s wife Jo.

Theo died shortly after Vincent and thus Jo acquired a worthless stack of Vincent’s paintings and letters which thank goodness she retained. These passed to her son and ultimately the Dutch state. So Van Gogh, more than any other famous artist, has considerable works available to the public.

The Rijksmuseum charged 18 euros, van Gogh museum 17 and the modern art museum 20. A couple could expect to pay over £100 to see all three.

Much of their “stock” is held back for reasons of space but the museum shops are now huge. I’m in favour of museum charges in the UK but not the commercialisation of the modern museum.

There is also the practice of the curator to blend in works of supposed influence but in reality far inferior quality.

Add the noise of school parties and the general overcrowding I become less convinced that this is the best way to appreciate art.

About Alice Mansfield

A graduate of the Slade, Alice has painted and written about art all her life. With her children now having now grown up and departed the nest, she recently took up sculpture. More Posts