On the first week back after the April holidays, the University organised a trip to Amsterdam, The aim of the trip was to explore a different artistic culture and visit several famous galleries.
The first museum we visited was the Rijksmuseum. This is the Dutch equivilent of the National Gallery and hosts a number of famous Dutch works and also many international pieces too. The works displayed are from a range of different eras and separated by these, it also had many themed rooms. It shows over 8000 artistic works and 800 years of Dutch History.
I really enjoyed going to see this museum and what it had to offer in terms of Art History. The museum itself was on such a large scale that it was impossible to see everything but you were guaranteed to see something that inspired you. I was taken by the Art Nouveau vases and the decorative ceramics. I loved the hand painted design and shape of them and it has inspired me for the luxury feel I am trying to obtain within my own work.
Alongside this it was great to see a piece by Van Gogh especially as he is one of the more famous Dutch painters I know of. I was surprised about how small his pieces actually were and how much colour detail was involved within them. The way he painted and seeing it up close really took me aback as when seeing his works in photographs you never get a feel of the layering and colour palette. Up close Van Gogh’s work seems very abstract but when you take a step back it suddenly becomes very detailed. I think this is a technique I could attempt to use within my work when I layer up the colours for my back wall. Seeing these so early on made me excited about going to see the Van Gogh Museum later on in the week.
I really enjoyed the Rijksmuseum and all of the work it had to offer. It was a great exploration of Dutch Art History and contained a lot of inspiration for me. The only critique I would have with the museum was the entrance price for students being quite elevated and some of the areas quite crowded and hot making it difficult to see the works on display. I felt the permanent collection was a lot stronger than the exhibition area where Catwalk: Fashion at the Rijksmuseum was being shown as the flow of this area was very slow and the lighting was not as efficiently done as within the permanent collection. The “catwalk” in the exhibition was on an extremely slow loop and visitors were encouraged to sit down, if you waited for all 15 of the garments going round to come past you, you were waiting for about half an hour meaning the people coming in would be waiting for a long time and it started to get hot and uncomfortable.
Overall the Rijksmuseum is definitely a must-see of Amsterdam and I really appreciated having spent an afternoon there.
The next museum we visited as a group was the Stedelijk Museum. This museum focused on Modern and Contemporary Art and Design. Inside, each gallery was broken down into pre and post 1950 and design had a section for itself. Alongside this a visiting exhibition, The Amsterdam School, was being shown.
This museum was a lot smaller than the Rijksmuseum enabling it to all be visited under two hours. The spaces were airy, light and big and even though there was quite a lot of visitors each piece had a lot of room to breathe and be viewed comfortably. The high ceilings aided this.
The most interesting part of the museum for me was the design section. This hosted a range of different design pieces in all manner of forms, from tea sets to lights. It also featured a lot of pattern work which I really took to. I loved how some of the pieces were displayed, especially the fabric in all the different tones. Although the tea sets and ceramic work were behind glass, the museum enabled a full 360 degree rotation of them. Both the walls and floor area was filled in every room giving the viewer a lot to explore in one space.
The art pre and post 1950’s galleries did not take my fancy as much as I thought they would. I did not feel inspired by a lot of the works that were on display and I felt the flow of walking through was quite slow pace. However I did pick out several artists that I have sparked an interest in and hope to explore further. The first was Picasso’s textile prints. I did not know Picasso was working within this genre and although I thought these were not his most proficient works, I found it an interesting endeavour by Picasso.
The second was the work of Sonia Delaunay. I really appreciated the colour palette she used within her work and her blending technique when using paint. I can compare her technique to the use of pastels. I thought her use of form and shape to create her work took on board the style of cubism but using curved lines. The block colours and layering of colour make for an exciting piece of abstract work whilst feeling extremely detailed. This reminds me of my discussions of Van Gogh’s work earlier on.
In the gallery I saw several artists that I was really eager to see in a gallery setting. The first is work by Kandinsky which I have been highly inspired by throughout my artistic journey.
The second is Cezanne who painted his pieces near my hometown and it was great to see one of his more famous pieces.
Overall I appreciated the Stedelijk Museum more than the Rijksmuseum from what is had to offer in terms of design based work. The gallery itself was more pleasant to explore and walk around and it felt more open. The building itself was a very modern architectural build and this made the interior very sophisticated and spacious. I would definitely go back to the Stedelijk Museum again as I feel it has a lot more of offer each time you go. The price to get in for students was also very appealing making it a more accessible museum.
Another one of the galleries we went to was the FOAM. This is the major photographic gallery of Amsterdam comparable to the Photographer’s Gallery in London.
I did not know what to expect from this gallery as I had not heard a lot about it. It was a small quaint space, based over three floors and each floor hosting an exhibition.
One of the exhibition showed many vintage photographs taken by Disfarmer. The way the photographs were displayed on the wall and the frames used to display them was done extremely well and to a very high quality. The photos each interesting told there own story but looking at what the person was wearing and what they were going. His work is known as typical American portrait photography and his client was a cross section of people living in Heber Springs between 1915 and 1959.
The exhibition that stood out to me the most was the one centred around the Calais Jungle by photographer Henk Wildschut. The photographs themselves showed a progression of the evolution of the lives of those living within the Jungle and how their home had changed. The flow of the gallery made it easy to view all the works on display with enough space to stand back and explore each piece from a distance. At the end of the photographic pieces was a video piece showing a clip of a lorry trying to make its way up the hill in the Refugee Camp. Following this room a cubist display of his work showed an alternative but also as poignant method of exhibiting photography where stills from his video and other photographs not in the first section of the exhibition were shown.
The work that FOAM gallery had to offer was extremely varied and each floor encompassed such alternative work that it did not become boring. The gallery was small so it did not take a lot of time to walk around it. I could all be viewed within three quarters of an hour. The lighting was efficiently done mixing artificial with natural light so the viewer did not feel they could not see each of the pieces or feel sleepy. The small bookshop was also quaint and offered a selection of the photographic magazine published by FOAM.
Van Gogh Museum
The Van Gogh Museum was one I had been looking forward to since the beginning of the week. I knew it hosted a range of famous Van Gogh works and some in particular I was eager to see in a gallery setting.
The Museum was split over three floors: His work pre 1889, Close Up and his work post 1889.
The museum aimed to explore all angles of Van Gogh’s life and work. The displays were broken up into sections which allowed us to examine where he lived, how this inspired him, who his family were and how they were key to his success. The museum was spacious and open and allowed visitors to walk around how they wished or followed the guide provided. The walls were painted different colours again so the viewer could see the different sections easily and passages of explanatory text were placed on the wall.
I was really happy to be able to see some of my favourite Van Gogh pieces such as Sunflowers and Almond Blossom. It was also exciting to see some of the works he created near my hometown and see how he interpreted these. It was great to see who Van Gogh’s main artistic inspirations were and how they influenced how he created his pieces. I was also amazing to see how much popular culture he has influenced himself. The only piece I was upset not to have been able to see was The Starry Night as it is one of my favourite of his works. (It is currently being exhibited in MoMa in New York. )
Something that I did not know about the work of Van Gogh was how much his sister in law was involved in making his work famous. If it was not for her and his late brother, his work would not have been as well known today as it is.
Overall Van Gogh Museum was my favourite museum I have visited during the trip. It was great to see all of his works come to life and learn a lot about him as an artist. Although I do not think I would go back to it again, I would recommend it as something to see in Amsterdam.
Here is a selection of photos I have taken whilst on the trip.