I’ll join the others in chorus recommending an in-person attendance to the Van Gogh museum.
I attended after enjoying another classic Amsterdam experience, munching through a potent hash brownie. Despite giving myself the recommended enjoyment and recovery time, the effects really kicked in just as we entered the Van Gogh Museum.
It was brilliant!
My beautiful wife abandoned me, because my absorption in some of the works made her fear we’d be kicked out.
And pertinent to this thread, I maintain from that experience that Wheatfield with Crows (https://www.vangoghmuseum.nl/en/collection/s0149V1962) is also an Impressionist self-portrait of sorts. Harder in digital form to spot the cloudy eyes, crow-black eyebrows, and wheaty-beard - but if you get to Amsterdam, or Paris where it’s about to go on tour, get yourself as close as possible and see if you see what I see!
My own sense of Wheatfield with Crows is that it is what Van Gogh experienced when he looked at it. It is a painting of how his emotions colored his visual perception. For me it is the closest I have come to knowing what it is like to see the world through another person's eyes.
But no matter what you make of it, or how you try to understand it, that painting is to me simply the best.
I had Van Gogh experience at the Musee D'Orsay. I walked into a room and ahead of me was the Church at Auvers and Dr. Gachet. The two of them together was just overwhelming. One would be stunning but there were two. OMG.
And also visit the nice Kröller Muller museum near Apeldoorn while you're in our country. They also have some Van Gogh's. Helena Kröller Muller was one of the first to recognize this kind of art. And also the place is surrounded by a beautiful forest where bikes are freely available.
For sure, make sure to take a whole day though, there's a lot to get through. There's also the park (there's free bikes available or you can drive through it), and another museum called the Museonder, more aimed at kids about what happens underground.
Note that you need a ticket to access the park, pay extra if you want to take your car in, and you need a separate ticket for the museum (the museum is inside the park). Park access is €12,50 per person, museum is another €12,50, and taking the car with you costs €8,70.
Yep, seeing these took me right back there. Absolutely the best museum I’ve ever been to, hands down.
I’m not good at “viewing art”, and often I struggle to understand why pieces are important. This museum is the first one that really filled in all the blanks for me. I was literally a changed person when I walked out of there.
My own sense of Wheatfield with Crows is that it is what Van Gogh saw when he looked at it. For me it is the closest I can come to seeing the world through another persons eyes. I have in my own life had moments when the distance between me and what I saw or sensed vanished. Hard to explain, but that separation just goes away - at least for me.
But no matter what you make of it, or how you try to understand it, that painting is to me simply the best.
I had a completely different Van Gogh experience at the Musee D'Orsay. I walked into a room and ahead of me was the Church at Auvers and Dr. Gache
Still the same piss-poor resolution of the works in the linked article, as well as the on-line collection. You can download his self portraits in a whopping 500×800 pixels, or use the crappy online viewer to zoom, and resort to hacks to download the obfuscated high resolution imagery.
The Van Gogh Museum gave this as the reason for this low quality:
> We zijn ons ervan bewust dat sommige culturele instellingen de bestanden ook op hoge resolutie beschikbaar stellen. Wij hebben vooralsnog een andere keuze gemaakt, mede omdat bij gebruik van de beelden voor commerciële doeleinden wij er waarde aan hechten dat dit op een passende wijze plaatsvindt. Ik vertrouw op uw begrip hiervoor.
They want to prevent the works of Van Gogh from showing up on merchandise without their seal of approval (and income), basically. Meanwhile the neighbouring Rijksmuseum provides high resolution scans for download without such miserly reasoning, fulfilling their public duty in a much more pleasant way.
I used to "not get" why Van Gogh is considered to be so special. After reading his biography and his letters, I am now in the know.
Van Gogh is an interesting case. He was very familiar with the art world, even before he started drawing and painting. He worked as an art dealer and traveled a lot when he was young.
Where it gets interesting is when he sets out to become an artist himself. Over the course of only ten years he produced a staggering 900 paintings. (I typically spend a few months on only one drawing. And most of those don't even have color.)
It's not that I now like his work, but I sure have learned to appreciate the man and his mission. Looking at the progression in his work and reading his letters gives a wonderful insight in the mind of a very sensitive person.
To me it wasn't until I saw his painting in person at the Van Gogh museum. I had never seen painting with just so much physical, 3D realism to them (the paint projects off the canvas some 5-10mm in places). I've never seen anything quite like it from that era.
Some others that I've gained appreciation for over time: Rembrandt (seeing the Night Watch in person, alone, was amazing), Vermeer (he was barely known until fairly recently), Suerat (didn't quite appreciate pontillism until I read more about color theory).
Seeing them in person makes an enormous difference. And the Van Gogh museum is spectacular. I already liked his work, but I felt like I understood it much more, including how tactile his process was.
A particular piece that really blew my mind to see in person was Bosch's "Garden of Earthly Delights" at the Prado in Madrid. It left a lifelong impression (I've returned to see it several times). What I realized was, panning all over a high res digital version, you never get the sense of the whole or the theatrical scale of the thing. It's like watching a movie on your phone versus at an IMAX.
I had the same experience with the Garden of Earthly Delights: it leaves a lasting impression. It's so incredibly weird; parts of it look like a seventies comic (or perhaps older sci-fi book cover art) instead of a half a millennium old painting.
If I may give a recommendation :-) Another painting that left a lasting impression on me was "Virgin and Child with Canon van der Paele", located in Bruge, in Belgium. It doesn't have the weirdness of the Bosch painting, but it's just so incredibly detailed, and unlike the more famous Lamb of God, you can come to within 5cm of it.
I stood in front of The Starry Night at MOMO in New York City for a long time, trying to imagine what it felt like for him to stand in front of a blank canvas, thinking what should I do today, and come up with that.
One thing that most people don't realize is that the "in person" experience of these paintings is dramatically different to seeing a picture in a book or on a screen.
This got driven home when we visited the Musée d'Orsay in Paris.
All the pictures are quite good. But if you put a bunch of different artists works together in a room, even as a rank amateur some of the paintings just immediately jump out at you. It's quite staggering just how much they jump out--and those are almost always done by one of the masters.
Another thing that people don't realize is that paintings have a third dimension--and that a lot of the masters used it. Again--the in-person experience mattrers.
Last month, my wife and I visited the Musée d'Orsay (as visiting American tourists). As it happens, we were in line when the museum opened and I had the bright idea to go straight to the top floor...partly because I was interested to see the van Gogh room, and partly because the large body of people entering the museum were still milling around on the first couple of floors.
And so it was that, as we wandered the relatively empty top floor, I walked through the entryway to the van Gogh exhibit room, looked left...and I just stopped, absolutely stunned as I looked upon Starry Night Over the Rhône. It completely took my breath away. I've never had that reaction (or much of any reaction) to a work of art before. My wife ended up wandering a different direction, and I had the pleasure of taking her back into the van Gogh room and watching her have the same reaction.
So, yeah...definitely nothing like looking at it on a screen or in a book.
The Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam tells you everything you need to know about the person and his craft. It’s carries his name because it’s a whole museum building filled with his work. Literally 1000 drawings and paintings. And it’s definitely a must see in person and no matter how many times I’ve been, every visit to Amsterdam is accompanied by a visit to the Van Gogh museum.
I think this is true of most things "in person", what's surprising is what you point out: exactly what ones will jump out at you. I was totally unprepared when I turned the corner in St Peter's and be confronted with the Pietà right in front of me. No joke, I was literally in tears.
I don’t seek out particular exhibits when visiting museums. I more so feel in the mood for it and just go for whatever’s on display. Any time an art museum I visit has a Van Gogh it catches me off guard. There’s a room full of different artists but his will jump out every time. They’re stunning.
>Over the course of only ten years he produced a staggering 900 paintings. (I typically spend a few months on only one drawing. And most of those don't even have color.)
Prolificness is the underappreciated aspect of genius. Most talented artists can produce a few great works in their lifetime, with total dedication to the craft and endless toil. Geniuses are the ones who pump those out effortlessly, and once they get bored with that, the masterpieces start to come.
I agree. The man's work was impressive. What many see as his signature style was not a quirk or a limit to his talent, but the result of his talent and his drive. He had got proficient in painting in multiple styles and had been intentionally developing a style to be his own.
> I used to "not get" why Van Gogh is considered to be so special. After reading his biography and his letters, I am now in the know.
Funny thing is this was the reality of his lived experience as well. He sold three (though there is some debate it was four) paintings in his life. The majority of them to his brother, and the rest by his brother.
He died a relative unknown leaving all of his paintings to his brother.
When his brother's wife read their correspondence she recognized what you did, and decided to publish them.
Upon publishing the letters Vincent's work became respected and in demand.
I'll try to do it justice in a comment but the book is here: "Van Gogh's Ear: Paul Gauguin and the Pact of Silence," by Hans Kaufmann and Rita Wildegans
A lot of circumstantial evidence but it's pretty telling. Paul Gauguin was an expert swordsman who carried a particular sword with him at all times. He and Vincent would have terrible fights when they lived together in Arles. We know that Paul was scheduled to move away the next day and that night they had a big fight and that Paul left town immediately in a rush leaving his sword behind. The new evidence that was found recently is a doctor's rendering of the cut ear. It's an extremely clean cut from the top, straight down.
There's more to it but those are some interesting details.
Yeah, it's quite funny. We know they argued violently and that Gauguin was armed with a sword. We know that Gauguin rushed out of town that night leaving his sword behind. We know that the argument was directly in front of a brothel. We know that Vincent opened the door and handed the receptionist his ear in paper saying, "Hold this for me," then went home and fell asleep, and later refused to talk about the incident in any way.
From this we came up with: after an argument with Gauguin, he cut off his own ear and gave it to a prostitute he probably was in love with, which shows how crazy he was.
I mean, now we have the doctor's rendering and it's clearly a sword cut, but couldn't we have figured this out before? Really?
Next time you're in the Netherlands, don't go to the van Gogh museum, but go to the Kröller-Müller Museum instead. It is the better van Gogh. Trust me on this.
The Kröller-Müller collection was made before van Gogh has broken through. They got first pick on everything. Although the van Gogh has more works, the Kröller-Müller has the better ones. Besides the setting of the Kröller-Müller is much much nicer.
The best art exhibition I have ever seen was Van Gogh and Japan at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam circa 2018.
It juxtaposed his paintings with traditional Japanese woodcut prints from his personal collection (~500), or that he would have seen at contemporay Japonisme exhibitions.
The influence is clear, and in some cases very direct. Sometimes with subject matter, others with composition, or texture, or contrast of textures. The Japanese prints were as wonderful as the Van Gogh.
I had the fortune of visiting Amsterdam last year and was really excited to see the Van Gogh Museum -- until we arrived, and it was already completely sold out for the day. The one thing we didn't plan down the absolute last detail. So disappointing! I hope one day I can visit again so I can finally see this museum!!