As part of our Thelma and Louise descent on N. Europe in the dead of winter, Melissa and I drove through wind, sleet and snow (no hail) to reach Amsterdam. To an art history major like Melissa, this city is the museum capital of the world. The thought of tackling the Van Gogh, Rijksmuseum, Stedelijk, and Hermitage museums in one visit is daunting enough to send you to dreamland or the loo. (More about that later)

In any event, I had plenty on my mind. Our first major stop today was the Van Gogh Museum.

We were lucky enough to descend on a major exhibition between Edvard Munch and Van Gogh. The curators had a field day placing each major Van Gogh next to a relevant Munch and comparing them. The artists’ styles vary greatly but their humanism and emotionally charged social commentary were consistently similar.

Of course the most charged painting was the “Scream” by Munch. Sure enough, it was on display. This was the first of four versions of the subject matter, in pastel in 1893. You can read more about the exhibition here:

Borrowed from the Museum in Oslo, the Munch collection was vast. It saved a trip to Oslo in this exhibit alone, but the two artists’ work side by side was overwhelming.

The painting itself was described as a sudden turning of the sky to blood orange. The subject was reacting to the scream caused by the sky and by putting his hands to his face. He was not the creator of the scream, as most of us would think, but it also has that effect.

Van Gogh had a completely different version of a similar setting. (See below, an example of the comparisons and contrasts between these two famous painters’ work).

Van Gogh scene adjacent to Munch’s Scream

Aside from following intricate comparisons, I was having my own wonderings. Did Klimt borrow the Kiss from Munch? Munch’s piece, also entitled the Kiss, comes from 1902, followed by Klimt’s piece around 1908. What’s your guess?

The deep dark leaves depicted by Van Gogh reminded me of one of Melissa’s paintings. Similar in color and cool density, the leaves seemed to reflect the mood and style of Van Gogh’s masterpiece!

Another jog in my now cluttered memory bank was the recent Asian Art Museum exhibition of Western art influenced by Japanese artists. The Van Gogh Museum version contained a room with a Van Gogh painting juxtaposed next to Hiroshige’s bridge. Very similar to the recent Asian Art Museum exhibition. Hmm, not bad for making connections…one of my favorite pastimes.

The takeaway from this museum is the vastness of Van Gogh’s efforts to learn and do art. His strokes convey his internal struggle to communicate and reach the viewer. His subjects command awareness and commitment. His peasant families, landscapes and simplicity in living demonstrate his earnestness and conversion from living a bourgeois life (his father was a pastor and his brother a successful art dealer) to becoming an active conveyor of life and living. Here’s one guy who made his avocation his profession!

You can read more about the exhibition here:

And now about the loo. Grubby hubby Gee Kin gets museum sickness whenever we spend too much time browsing and pausing in museums. Initially, he made a dive into the men’s room after about twenty minutes of forking over his hefty share of the entrance fee. Slowly, he is overcoming his immun-deficiency and increasing his brain mass (not tolerance) for visual institutions and the intellectual challenges they offer. After a successful visit to the Hermitage in St. Petersburg last summer, he can proudly claim that he is in remission.

Sadly, I discovered a device at the Van Gogh today that might have saved Gee Kin his misery. It’s known as a Stendhal box.
Developed for museum goers in ecstasy, this chair with a shroud around it (there’s a wooden door to cover your view after you sit inside) can help you to decompress at the end of a raptured experience at the museum! While some may believe this to be comic relief, the confessional certainly could have treated Gee Kin with a refuge from torture and spared him another trip to the loo.

Our fruitful day ended with dinner at De Kas, located on a lake in town. The greenhouse and lab environment was an unusual setting to showcase its hydroponic food production that short-circuits farm to table in an entertaining and palatable way. The single menu included vegetable forward and crunchy appetizers, mushroom consommé, field fowl, and cheese plate or tarte tatin for dessert.


2 thoughts on “Amsterdam”

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