Continued from Alone in Amsterdam…
When I exited the museum, I discovered the weather had markedly improved and the sun was even trying to peek out from behind the clouds. I decided I would make my way over to the Van Gogh Museum as I had a special reason to return (and since they were open until 10 PM on Friday, it didn’t matter that I might be arriving just 20 minutes before their normal closing time).
On my sister’s recommendation, I had started reading Van Gogh’s biography written by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith; fair warning, this is a very long book (976 pages in paperback). I don’t recall when I started reading it but by the time I had arrived in Amsterdam, I still had only read a little over half the book.
I was most pleased when I walked up the steps of the museum and found no line at all. However, when I pulled on the door to enter, it was locked. Looking through the glass, I could see people inside and then I saw a security guard wave towards a separate door that was open. As I started to walk in, I waved my Museum card to show I didn’t need a ticket. However, he said the entrance was around the side—another change to deal with—this entrance was for groups only.
When I rounded the building, I found a new queue line that hadn’t been there last year. Thankfully, the line for cardholders was not as long as those buying tickets, as they had to weave back and forth before reaching the ticket counter. As I stood in line occasionally glancing at the clouds overhead, I recalled how nice it was last year to wait on the covered front porch while the rain poured down that morning. This line was not covered; how miserable that would have been to stand in the rain trying to stay dry under an umbrella.
After about 20 minutes, I had my admission ticket (again free) but rather than entering through a side door, was directed to enter the separate addition to the building that was added almost 20 years ago. It felt like I was coming in the backdoor but as I descended the stairs to the cloakroom, I had a wonderful perspective view through the glass of the new Van Gogh building with the centuries old Rijksmuseum a short distance away.
Coming up the escalator to the first floor of the museum, I noticed the name of the café’. While I have been to this museum many times over the last 20+ years I have been coming to Amsterdam, the name never registered but thanks to reading this Van Gogh book, I recognized it as the name of the café’ in Paris that first publically displayed Van Gogh’s work—Le Tambourin—operated by Vincent’s one-time lover Agostina Segatori.
On the ground floor of the museum where many of his self-portraits are displayed (many not because he was vain but because he often couldn’t afford models to paint), there was a timeline of his life.
Thanks to having read much of the book, I was pleased to recognize the name of his birthplace and the other towns where his father was a minister. The places where he lived in Paris were also familiar to me thanks to the book. But when I reached the part of his timeline that I had not gotten to in the book, I had to step away as to not spoil the ending of the book.
On the first floor of the museum (in Europe the ground floor is zero (0)), I was pleased to see the now familiar artists paintings but when I read the little card next to each, there was new recognition that these were either paintings by artists that Theo (Van Gogh’s brother) had encouraged Vincent to emulate or they were artist friends of Vincent’s that he tried to mimic. And with each familiar Van Gogh painting I passed, it was with incredible new insight that many of these masterpieces had been considered unworthy and unsalable at the time they were created. It was also with a whole new appreciation that I viewed some of the pencil drawings and letters since drawing was how Vincent got his artistic start and it is through these letters, mostly to Theo, that we have such insight into the sad and troubled life that Vincent lived.
As the night wore on, I experienced for the first time, their Friday evening program as they rolled out the bar for cocktails and began to project Van Gogh images on the walls of the museum.
Feeling hungry, I left before the DJ started to play but it was a visit that was much enhanced by the knowledge gleaned from reading this book. So much more than just the little blurb printed next to the paintings or even the brief audio tour, it was with a vast amount of details about the current events in Vincent’s life that enriched my experience. And it was with a whole new appreciation that were it not for the long-term financial support that Theo had provided, I probably would not have been standing where I was that day.
Without a doubt, if you ever have the opportunity to visit the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, read the book before you go. You will be absolutely amazed how Vincent could work through the sorrows and self-doubts at the time to create the beautiful, now over 100 year-old masterpieces you would be witnessing for the first time.
Existing the museum, the weather unfortunately had again worsened and so rather than walk in the rain back to the hotel, I hopped on the crowded tram for a welcome ride back. On the way, I decided I didn’t want to be out in the rain to eat dinner and so before heading back to the hotel, I stopped at the little grocery store to get a picnic dinner to have in my room.
When I opened my door, I found that the hotel manager had left me a welcome package of wine, water, and desserts.
To this I added my picnic items for a delightful in room dinner as I anxiously picked up in my Van Gogh book where I had left off earlier in the day.
To be continued…