Home Arts Ten must-see works in Amsterdam

Ten must-see works in Amsterdam

by godlove4241
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For much of the 17th century and for a few precious decades in the 19th and 20th centuries, the Netherlands was home to some of the world’s greatest artists. With their organizational genius, the Dutch have made the most of this heritage by bringing together and displaying the glories of their country’s Golden Age and the pioneering geniuses of European modernism around the Museumplein, a concentrated collection of museums in Amsterdam, their capital and largest city. .

THE Rijksmuseum, the huge national collection of the Netherlands, is the perfect place to discover the great works of Dutch art from the 17th century. Then comes the Amsterdam Stedelijk Museum, one of the world’s foremost collectors of modern art and design, now actively updating its collections to encompass contemporary trends. And in between is the Van Gogh Museum, with the largest collection of works by the doomed Dutchman, whose itinerant life included a stay in the city.

The challenge and reward of going back and forth between these institutions is to find the most visible artistic paths within Holland – between the polished humanism of Rembrandt and the explosive humanity of Van Gogh; between the optical sensibility of Vermeer and the transcendent geometry of Mondrian. It is a deep and rich undertaking, benefiting from centuries of local expertise and state-of-the-art conservation.

1.Rembrandt The night watch (1642), Rijksmuseummuseum street

The group portrait of the civic guard was a staple genre of the Dutch Golden Age, and Rembrandt’s version is the flagship work in the Rijksmuseum’s Honor Gallery, housing the best-known masterpieces from the country. Rather than a show of military power, it can feel like a pageantry of human existence, encompassing the comic, the tragic, the willful and the strange.

Courtesy of Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam

2. At Kazimir Malevich’s An Englishman in Moscow (1914), Amsterdam Stedelijk MuseumMuseum Square

On his way to suprematism, the Ukrainian artist made a stopover in futurism; its geometric collages and its salads of Cyrillic words presaging surrealism. An engaging, confusing and driving roundabout of the European avant-garde, the piece is a bit of an outlier in Malevich’s oeuvre, but an iconic work of the Stedelijk.

Courtesy of the Rijksmuseum

3. Chez Anton Mauve Morning walk along the beach (1876), Rijksmuseummuseum street

In the second half of the 19th century, a group of Dutch artists headquartered in The Hague brought international attention to the Dutch art scene with their plein-air depictions of Holland’s stubbornly gray landscapes and seascapes, even though they are dynamically lit. Anton Mauve (1838-1888) – who taught Van Gogh and later inspired Mondrian – was arguably their leading figure, and his masterpiece now suggests a muted fusion of realism and impressionism.

© Amsterdamse School Museum Het Schip / Marcel Westhoff

4. Michel de Klerk Het Schip Museum (1919), Oostzaanstraat

During the First World War, neutral Holland fostered the emergence of a number of avant-garde movements, but none so marked the Dutch capital as the Amsterdam school of architecture which combined materials traditional, expressionist forms and socialist politics. The sturdy, whimsical red-brick complex to the west of town called “The Ship” was designed by an ingenious architect who died aged 39 and houses a museum that commemorates the movement’s history. The exhibits, which include a range of decorative arts and documents, are worth seeing, but a walk around the perimeter of the complex itself can be the highlight.

Courtesy of Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam

5. Piet Mondrian Composition No. IV, with red, blue and yellow (1929), Amsterdam Stedelijk MuseumMuseum Square

Mondrian’s journey from an Amsterdam art student with a flair for landscapes, circa 1892, to the lowly modernist colossus of Paris in the decades between the two world wars culminates in this square painting. Marked by a broad black horizontal line and overlapping layers of white, it is a transitional work between the color blocks of the early 1920s and the elaborate grids of the 1930s and beyond.

Courtesy of the Rijksmuseum

6. Johannes Vermeer The milk girl (around 1660), Rijksmuseummuseum street

Scholars now argue that Vermeer became familiar with a camera obscura in the late 1650s, and the experience paid off in this kitchen scene. Here, the illusion of a stream of light highlights isolated details, from the sandy crusts of bread to the folds of the maid’s blue apron. A main attraction of the Rijksmuseum, the painting has meanwhile transformed into a symbol of the Netherlands itself.

Credit: Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam / Vincent van Gogh Foundation

7. Vincent van Gogh Wheat field with crows (1890), Van Gogh MuseumMuseum Square
Credit: Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation)

Painted during the last month of Van Gogh’s life, this grim and glorious work, with its death-bringing crows and life-affirming wheat stalks, portends the artist’s impending suicide, while living as a celebration of his unique gifts.

Photo: Peter Kooijman, 2010 © Museum van Loon

8. The Chamber of Sheep (17th-19th centuries), Van Loon MuseumKeizergracht

The bounty and bling of Holland’s acquiring upper classes – who century after century commissioned, collected and were consoled by the country’s artistic treasures – are housed in the Van Loon Museum, in the heart of Holland’s canal belt. Amsterdam in the 17th century. Dating back to the 1670s, the house contains an agglomeration of fashionable furniture and trappings of later centuries. Its most famous interior space is in an upstairs bedroom, named after the sheep motif on the wall and matching bedspreads.

Courtesy of the Rijksmuseum

9. Jan Asselijn The threatened swan (around 1650), Rijksmuseummuseum street

In 1800, when what was to become the Rijksmuseum was housed in The Hague, the new, nationally minded gallery purchased as its first acquisition this life-size depiction of a swan defending its nest. A mysterious allegory – perhaps evoking an aquatic Dutch republic defending its autonomy – the painting is also an example of the lively realism that marked the art of the Golden Age.

Cobra Museum of Modern Art Collection, Amstelveen c/o Pictoright 2023

10. Chez Karel Appel Women, children, animals (1951), Cobra Museum of Modern ArtSandbergplein (Amstelveen)

Amsterdam-born Karel Appel (1921-2006) got his start as a figuratively-minded abstract artist in the Dutch Cobra movement of the immediate post-war period, a high point of 20th-century Dutch art. century. The large format of this 2.80 meter wide work distinguishes it from other paintings of the movement, reminiscent of Picasso’s attenuated figuration and Mondrian’s penchant for primary colors, with a restrained chaos specific to Appel.

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