Too soon it is our last full day in Amsterdam. We have created a large agenda and set out early. We have booked a time slot at the Van Gogh museum, a trip back to the Rijksmuseum, a canal tour and will finish as dinner guests at Aunt Emmy’s home.
We take the tram to the museum square, arrive early and use the time to chill. There is no need to queue as we will all be gained entry at the same time.
The museum is dedicated to the work of Vincent Van Gogh and his contemporaries. We embark on a journey through his career, his unravelling and untimely death.
Van Gogh’s early work is quite dark and at odds with what is typically known as his style. “The Potato Eaters,” a darkly coloured painting depicts its subjects as caricatures. Van Gogh received harsh criticism for this work, listened and changed his style dramatically. His paintings became cheerful, colourful with sunny yellow prominent. I can’t help but wonder if the darker pieces are what he truly felt, though was forced to give the world its cheery preference.
Vincent was not a wealthy man and could not afford models, so he used himself to work on techniques. Each self portrait depicts a sad man, lacking in confidence, telling in how he saw himself and at odds with the cheerful colour palette.
Van Gogh dreamed in his later years of an artist colony at the yellow house in the south of France. He was excited for Gaughin and other artists of the time to create their art together, a Utopia. Gaughin did come to the yellow house and stayed for nine weeks. Initially all went according to Van Gogh’s plan, though it ended badly with an argument, Gaughin leaving and Van Gogh cutting off his own ear.
It is unclear of Van Gogh’s malady, some speculate bipolar disease, others have thought epilepsy or poisoning. In any case, his actions were not the workings of a sane man.
He admitted himself to a mental institution after the “ear incident” where on good days he painted prolifically, on bad days he barely moved. His paintings were bright, colourful, seemingly at odds with his state of mind. One of his famous paintings, “Starry nights,” currently located at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City was painted from the view he saw outside of the asylum window.
Van Gogh’ breakdowns became more frequent and he died several days after a self inflicted gun shot wound. I feel sad at the completion of the tour. At the beginning of the tour, I knew his outcome, though his cheery paintings had me naively hoping for a different, better end. I wished that somehow his dreams would be fulfilled and perhaps his hopeful paintings are telling, Van Gogh did as well.