It is rare to find a museum dedicated to a single artist. It is a risky proposal, as it is common to see the best paintings in the history of art displayed in distinct countries, distributed to travel around the world.
The Van Gogh Museum, built in 1973, is the place where all the story about the famed Dutch painter lies. You can argue that his most significant work is not exhibited here, but what this museum will give you is a privileged perspective of how Vincent conceived the world.
This museum is a four-floor journey through the eyes of Vincent. The road starts when, after struggling with finding something to live for, Van Gogh decides to become a painter at the age of 27. His early years are full of very dark paintings from his time in the poor province of Neunen in The Netherlands. During this period, Van Gogh enjoyed painting weavers, cottages, and peasants. The most iconic painting of this era is The Potato Eaters.
Everything changes with his departure to France, in 1886. A sparkle of light struck Van Gogh and his paintings. He became good friends with the Impressionists and his work dramatically changed. His paintings, once with a very dark palette, turned very bright thanks to a lighter palette that would become constant and representative in his next works.
We cannot talk about Van Gogh without talking about his brother and his close friends. Friendship played a huge role in Van Gogh’s life and the museum seems to understand that. We can know how Vincent was thanks to the letters he sent to Theo, his brother, and his other artist friends.
When Vincent was at his lowest, his brother was his confidant, but he was also very thoughtful of his friends: he would send them letters when they were having a rough time.
His artist friends also inspired him. In every hall, apart from seeing Vincent’s evolution through the years, we can see what his friends were doing and we will instantly recognize some things that they took from Vincent and some that Vincent took from them. A perfect feedback.
A letter to Paul Signac sums up everything. Van Gogh writes: “The best consolation, if not the only remedy, is, it seems to me, profound friendships.”
Maybe we will never fully understand what is going on inside a troubled mind. We need to appreciate everything Theo van Gogh and family did in order to create all of this. Thanks to them, we can have a very small glimpse of how it was to be Vincent van Gogh, with his genius and his troubles.