As a person who has studied art for many years throughout my time at school to completing Fine Art for GCSE and A-Level, Van Gogh has been an artist who has inspired my work and has influenced my painting decisions. I have spent so much time looking at his work on computer screens and in books but I really wanted to see his work in person and really get a feel for each brush stroke and how the whole piece has been composed and put together. I also felt it would be a nice conclusion to my art studies as his work has featured so much in my sketchbooks over the years and it helped me conclude my studies.
We was quite lucky in getting into the Van Gogh Museum we arrived there in the morning when it was still quiet, this meant we was able to walk straight up to the ticket office, purchase the tickets, and then enter the museum without waiting in any lines at all. So it was a very smooth and fast process. When we got into the museum it seemed very busy with lots of people everyone and this was at a quiet time during the day. It did prove to be a problem to pass by narrow areas and see a few painting as people would crowd around to observe the work as they learnt about it through their headpieces. This was at a quiet time so I would not want to find out what it would be like when it is at peak times with lots of people in the museum.
When you first walk into the museum you are greeted with this view as you go down the steps. The shop is direction in front of you on the ground floor as the cloak room for bags and coats is to the left. That is something I was unaware of as I was so eager to see the paintings I made a b-line to the escalators up to where the paintings were being displayed before I got kindly told to put my stuff in the cloak room.
The actual cost of the tickets was a bit expensive if I’m honest at €17 each it definitely wasn’t cheap. But this is something I probably won’t visit again so it was nice to experience the museum and see Van Gogh’s masterpieces. I recognised a few painting on the walls that I have painted over the years and I was a surreal feeling actually seeing the work in person after spending time during school days carefully observing photographs and interpreting them in my own way.
I would show you pictures of the paintings that I spent time studying but you are not allowed to take pictures in the museum except at designated zones. I did not know this when I first walked into the museum… and lets just say I got told off quite harshly by security man who wasn’t too kind about the situation. I only wanted to take a picture of the room where everyone was gathered as it was a calming, relaxed environment and he scared me so much I was very nervous to take my phone out after that. As a person who likes to take pictures of things around me as a way to preserve memories it was challenging not to take pictures of things. It is a little disheartening really as there was a handful of paintings that I would love to have a picture of just as a memory of me actually seeing them in person.
The way the museum is curated is different to any other museum I have visited. It is designed to tell the story of Gogh’s life in chronological order, and as you progress through his work you see the changes over the years. There is a lot of historical context that you can learn as well as influential factors that is reflected in his work. At some points there is interactive elements that heightens your learning to give a greater insight into the painting itself and the artists mindset.
When you first walk into the museum you are greeted with a series of self portraits portrayed on a black backdrop. Each painting differs slightly and you can really get a sense of his mindset in the work and how his thoughts changed throughout the years as well as how that is represented through the facial emotions as well as the colours and brushstrokes selected. These portraits are on the first floor which is a nice welcome into the work of Gogh and the museum.
As you move up onto the second floor, there is a series of early works of Gogh as well as some pieces from artists that were an influence at that time. Some of my favourite pieces of his in this section was the landscapes he started to paint. The work was completed both in large scale and on small canvases. You really can a sense of the time when he was painting and the people who was his subject matter. It is really captivating to see such detailed work on large master paintings, you really get a sense of how good he was an an artist and the time that has been spent on each piece he created.
Amongst the walls of this museum is some of his most famous masterpieces (Sadly no Starry Night this is in a New York Museum). One of the paintings that was really different in person was ‘Sunflowers‘ it has a more three dimension element with thick paint applied to the piece as well as a lot of texture being worked into the flowers. It was also quite amazing to learn he painted this piece only using three shades of yellow, that was something I did not realise before my visit here. The flowers really jump out of the painting not only because of them being three dimensional but because they are contrasted with the blue backdrop, it is demanding your attention. There was even a section (where I took the picture of the sunflowers painting) for visually impaired people to touch and smell the artworks replica. I decided to participate in the interactive element to really get a greater sense of the artwork and learn about it from a new perspective. As a result I was able to immerse myself into the life and works of Van Gogh. Other elements that really allow you to learn more about the artist includes letters and drawings which are positioned around the spaces helping to contextualize the time in which he was working.I didn’t spent too much time on one piece in the museum, I slowly made my way around looking at each piece in turn but stopping when something really grabbed my attention, especially the ones I recognised from my time doing art. Some of my favourite pieces of work in the gallery was the Skull of a Skeleton with Burning Cigarette, Almond Blossoms and The Sea at Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. The Sea painting was something I studied during my AS-Level Fine Art and I chose to incorporate sand into my work for a more textured element and it was so amazing to find out in that painting of Gogh’s work sand had blown into his paint while he was working on the piece as he completed it at the beach. I felt a greater connection between my piece and his by this similarity in mediums used.
On the top floors of the gallery it focuses more on his later life which was nice to see and held the more iconic pieces of his. But during my visit there, the museum was holding an Exhibition called ‘Van Gogh, Rousseau, Corot: In the Forest’. It included some of my favourite styles of paintings of nature and moody captivating forests. These were among my favourite pieces I saw throughout my time at the museum and if you get chance to go anytime between now and the 10th September 2017 you will be able to see come of the beautiful pieces.
Overall I enjoyed my time there it was nice to see all of his work under one roof so you get a sense of who he was a person as well as being able to see everything in real life. It was overwhelming to see the amount of artworks he produced during his time. Although there are limitations placed on you the audience. I have never really had a restriction in a museum or art gallery before in terms of photography and not being allowed to take pictures. It is a little disappointing really but it means you can embrace the work better without people just walking around holding phones up and taking pictures of the work for their social media. There is one consolation, a gift shop, so you can purchase a post card or poster of your favourite artworks albeit at inflated prices, good old capitalism, it wasn’t cheap to enter the museum or purchase souvenirs of your experience there. It is clear that a place of learning and education has turned more into a profiteering business but it doesn’t reflect negatively on any of his work it is just my feelings of the place.
The Van Gogh Museum was well curated in regards to the timeline of his work and how that compliments the accession of the stairs upwards as his life progressed, the choice of lighting, colour and user interaction of the work was well planned and allowed you to walk through the museum at your leisure and get a real sense of place when moving through.
If you have ever been to the Van Gogh museum what was your experience like and what painting of his was your favourite?