Saturday, September 25, 2010

Go Van Gogh

When we arrived at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam last Friday night, we discovered that, contrary to our guidebook, the museum did not stay open late that night.  However, the Van Gogh museum did so we trotted over there instead.  What a treat it was.

The main building of the museum has three levels.  A choir was practicing while we were there, presumably for a performance later that evening.  The sound of the harmonies wafted through the gallery as we looked at the precursors and influences on Van Gogh as well as the works of the master himself.

One of the finds of the evening was the exhibition of The Bedroom at Arles,  the first of three versions Van Gogh painted, in restored form.  Based on Vincent's letters to Theo describing the painting, the restorers brought out the colors more vibrantly. Here is a copy of the unrestored painting:

In the restoration, the yellows in the bed, including the wood, were much brighter.  The mirror to the left of the window is clearly black and white. The blanket on the bed is red not the maroon you see here.  And the walls were shades of violet rather than the blue you see in this version. The restored painting was placed in the center of a room with a print of what it looked like before the restoration.  Really fascinating.

Other Van Gogh paintings that particularly caught my eye included examples of his experimentation with pointillism. I was particularly enamored of  a series of paintings of wheatfields including the haunting Wheatfields with Crows which he painted months before his suicide:

I also liked the famous The Harvest and the Hill of Montmartre

The Harvest
The Hill of Montmartre with Quarry

In addition to van Gogh, the museum had one of Monet's Japanese Garden paintings, which is particularly of interest to me given that we stood on the same bridge at Giverny ten years ago with a friend who has since passed away. And there was Daubigny's Cliffs at Villerville-sur-mer as part of a special exhibition "Painting in the open air: myth and reality".  Apparently Daubigny did not paint the Cliffs in the open air.  Who would have thought?

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