You do not have to search a lot about the Netherlands to find the monumental twin buildings designed by the renown Dutch architect Pierre Cuypers: Amsterdam Central Station and the Rijksmuseum, the National Museum. Both are fundamental to the city of Amsterdam.
The museum exhibits some of the best artistic works from the Dutch golden era, the 17th century. One of the main differences between this and other big European museums is that here you can understand how the Netherlands became one of the biggest nations in the world. This place praises the Dutch society of the golden age and their former way of thinking, trading, and living.
Three big names are what attract most people: Johannes Vermeer, Frans Hals and, of course, Rembrandt. It’s important to say that painters in the time earned their living painting portraits for the wealthy people, this is why we can understand so much of the manner these people lived in because three influential painters were constantly producing art that reflected their reality.
A huge amount of Hals’ portraits can be found in the Rijksmuseum as well as his most famous paintings, like The Merry Drinker, The Meagre Company and the popular portrait of Isaac Abrahamsz Massa and Beatrix van der Laen.
Vermeer’s technique is recognizable from every angle of the museum. Most of his paintings show the interior of houses. He is known for the way he used light in his work. “The Milkmaid,” “The Love Letter,” and two rare townscape paintings can be appreciated in the museum.
Rembrandt van Rijn is the big shot of the Rijksmuseum. Rembrandt is one of the best painters that ever lived. Rembrandt’s most acclaimed work lays every day from the walls of the Rijksmuseum. We can see how a man can change in the course of 33 years with Rembrandt’s famous self-portraits, we can also find some biblical scenes like Jeremiah lamenting the fall of Jerusalem or The Denial of St. Peter.
“The Night Watch” is the climax of the visit. This painting from 1642 is Rembrandt’s largest and most famous work. It shows the Militia Company of District II ready to go into action. This is arguably the most important painting in the Netherlands and it stands out from every other artwork in the gallery.
Without a doubt, what makes the Rijksmuseum important is the mixture of society and art in the seventeenth century. Very few National Museums have as main attractions the best works of their local painters and in this globalized world where you can find anything, anywhere, the Rijksmuseum stands as one of the few places where you can find and understand everything about the Dutch golden era.
- Reporter (Spring 2018)