Thursday, 3 October 2013

The full Vincent, and yikes, it's the Rijks

I'm back from our September Pilgrimage to Croatia and Medjugorje - but more of that later as I haven't finished Amsterdam yet! Blimey, you must be thinking, what a life!
On my last full day in A'dam I had a timed e-ticket to the Van Gogh Museum, so I decided to OD on culture and hit the Rijksmuseum in the afternoon too. So I got on one of the city's excellent trams and headed across the centre. All of Amsterdam's public transport functions only on an Oystercard type payment system, with no money changing hands at all - very impressive.
As at the Anne Frank, I was glad I had my e-ticket so I could walk past the ever-lengthening queue. To mark 150 years since his birth, the collection has been hung in one long continuous display through the floors, with excellent commentary on the audio guide including links to all the info you could possibly want on the great painter. I spent about 2 hours and found it fascinating to watch his development unfold in front of your eyes. The collection is based on the paintings owned by Theo, Vincent's brother. The last paintings I found very moving, including the famous "Wheatfield with Crows" (above) with its disappearing lane, and the disturbing "Treeroots"(below).
After a snack out on the leafy park between the two galleries, I made for the newly revamped Rijksmuseum. It's very impressive indeed. They have cleared away the galleries that had filled up two internal courtyards, glassed them over and formed a wonderful entrance area. Very thoughtfully they have put many of their "Greatest Hits" all in one place, the very grand central gallery. This is dominated by Rembrandt's "Night Watch" at the far end, like a kind of High Altar. But the "side chapels" had already caused me to sit several times, with a scattering of Frans Hals, no fewer than four wonderful Vermeers (right), and a very select group of other Rembrandts, including one of my all-time favourites, the so-called "Jewish Bride" (below). "The Night Watch" itself just sort of stuns you with its scale and skill and general brilliance, but this portrait of a couple drew me in. It was far better than even the best of reproductions. After this genius overload, I wandered around several other galleries, not even attempting to do the whole place, before staggering out into the Dutch sunlight, and a last evening dinner at the hotel.

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