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Vincent Van Gogh is undeniably one of the most famous artists of all time. In a career that lasted just ten years, he left an enormous mark in the history of art and his paintings are currently familiar to everyone. The Van Gogh Museum houses a striking collection with almost every work by the Dutch painter. Year after year, therefore, it attracts millions of visitors.
The museum is organised in two buildings: the main building, from 1973, designed by the architect Gerrit Rietveld that currently solely houses the permanent collection; and the Exhibition Wing, completed in 1999, by the architect Kisho Kurokawa, in which temporary exhibitions are held.
Since it was built, the museum, and particularly the main building, has been renovated, refurbished and altered on several occasions.
Its architect, Rietveld, died before construction was finished, and the project was completed by his colleagues. Rietveld belonged to the famous De Stijl movement and, as such, designed geometrical shapes, and worked with light and open spaces. One of the museum’s architectural virtues is its great central stairway, through which light enters and floods all the galleries.
What can be said about the collection of the Van Gogh Museum? The artist arouses passion and hate, like his tortured personality, yet leaves no one indifferent. A visit to the museum is a must while you are in the city and you can rest assured it is well worth it.
In the spacious galleries you can find out about the artist’s life and work. One cannot be understood without the other, and the biographical explanations are therefore very helpful for visitors. Vicent Van Gogh wrote hundreds of letters to his brother Theo and to other family members and friends. This escape valve for the painter has helped many art historians to understand his work. The museum very often uses fragments of these letters to set his works in context, which gives it an entertaining and original touch. The letters to his brother Theo, which were published comprehensively in the Complete Letters of Vincent Van Gogh, are truly moving and help to understand Van Gogh and his art a little better.
As well as photographs, personal objects, films and bibliographical and Internet resources, the museum exhibits 200 canvases and 550 drawings, which are spread out over three floors, and classified by theme and chronological order.
Vincent Van Gogh’s career as an artist lasted under ten years. His first canvas dates from 1881 and by his death, in 1890, he had painted 879 oil paintings, drawn over 1,000 drawings, and had painted a large number of watercolours. This creative intensity is divided into three different phases, which even included a serious crisis that prompted him to mutilate his ear and ultimately led him to commit suicide.
The works on exhibition include his studies of peasants in Holland such as The Potato Eaters, his Parisian phase, in which the many self-portraits were painted, his time in Arles, which includes the work Bedroom in Arles and a series of Sunflowers, and, lastly, Saint-Rémy and Auvers, outstanding for the Wheat Field with Crows, one of his last works.
There are also works by relatives, friends and contemporaries of Van Gogh who, in one way or another, influenced his life and work.
To make the most of your visit we recommend you hire one of the audio-guides offered by the museum.
If you would like more information on the life and times of Van Gogh, the second floor of the museum has some tables with books and computers that may be freely accessed by visitors.
On the ground floor, the museum shop is very complete and an idea place to buy mementoes, which are more original than typical souvenirs. Contributions that are assigned to the purchase of new works for the museum are also very welcome.
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