During a weekend trip to Amsterdam on March 26th, I had the opportunity to visit the Van Gogh Museum. I had known Van Gogh as the one-eared artist of Starry Night, but other than that, he was a complete mystery to me. The museum did a really incredible job of showing Van Gogh’s work while also telling his story. The tortured artists’ life was both wonderful and tragic. Unfortunately, I was unable to take many pictures.
According to the museum, Van Gogh decided to dedicate his life to art at the late age of 27. At first, he focused on portraits, especially those of peasants. He aspired to be a “peasant painter,” revealing the raw, unromanticized life of impoverished field workers. His most famous peasant panting is “The Potato Eaters,” a large portrait of a peasant family eating their dinner. The oil painting is dark and haunting. Van Gogh often sacrificed realistic details to communicate emotion. By doing this, he believed that art is able to incorporate more truth than objective photographs.
Much later down the line, Van Gogh became more interested in painting nature and ended up moving to the south of France. As a lighter person, I prefer these bright, colorful paintings to his darker portraits. My favorite painting in the museum was “Almond Blossom,” a large painting of a blossoming almond tree made for his infant nephew. Towards the end of his life, Van Gogh’s mental health problems became more and more apparent, but he always believed his painting would heal him.
The whole museum was much more moving than I anticipated. Van Gogh’s obsession with art, love for his family, and ultimate suicide made the whole experience very dense. I was also surprised by his artistic diversity. Van Gogh painted such a wide range of subjects with so many different styles that I’m not sure I could identify some of his paintings as his. Regardless, I feel fortunate to have learned so much more about his life and work.