360 Degrees of Wonder:

Vincent meets Rembrandt – The Untold Story

By Isabella Nijm | Metro City | November 15, 2021

Illustration: The aesthetic walls of De Nieuwe Kirk of the Vincent Meets Rembrandt exhibition.

It is one thing to look at a painting and another thing to understand it. But have you ever seen a painting come to life? Upon entering Noorderkerk, a Protestant church from the 17th century in Amsterdam, I was not sure of what to expect of the “Vincent Meets Rembrandt – A Story Untold” exhibition I had a ticket for. All I knew was that the exhibition would portray the story of the two most famous artists in Dutch history: Vincent Willem Van Gogh (1850-1890) and Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (1606-1669). 

This special exhibition tells the story of how Rembrandt’s work had a significant impact on the work of Van Gogh. Many of Van Gogh’s paintings, therefore, resemble the style of Rembrandt. A special characteristic of the exhibition was the knowledge of the visitors that both artists visited Noorderkerk during their lives, giving the venue a sense of magic. 

The church’s usually muted, neutral atmosphere was transformed into a 360-degree world of colors and illustrations which instilled within me a sense of awe. The exhibition featured a virtual projection of the work of both Rembrandt and Van Gogh onto the church’s walls and ceiling, the combination of different paintings merging together as milk and coffee would merge into latte art. There was a certain feeling that arose, observing the moving paintings traveling over the huge walls and windows. The exhibition also had a universal appeal seen in the diversity of the visitors who entered the Noorderkerk from different walks of life. I felt a sense of togetherness and unity with all those people brought together by the works of Van Gogh and Rembrandt. 

Van Gogh, famous for his dramatic and bold brush strokes and intense emotional ties to his paintings creates a feeling that the observer can identify with. Culturally, Vincent’s work is unlike any other artist, with his exaggerated and expressive, yet smooth painting techniques. Every piece of his has a story to tell which is why his work has become so well-known and admired around the globe. If you are not yet familiar with Van Gogh, I highly recommend a visit to the Van Gogh Museum.

Rembrandt is one of the best-known painters of the Dutch Golden Age, renowned for his realism and unique ability to tell stories with his work through the use of light and shadows. The Rijksmuseum has many of his paintings on display as well, should you wish to know more about his work. 

This exhibition made clear how Rembrandt played an important part in Vincent’s artistic process. While Van Gogh traveled and worked in Amsterdam, Rembrandt’s art hugely inspired him. Rembrandt is known for his realistic portraits and pieces, and Van Gogh’s employment of similar techniques allowed him to capture the emotions of the people he painted. Rembrandt often faced criticism declaring his work as lacking in beauty due to his images appearing “too real.” From a present-day perspective, can anything actually be regarded as “too real” in our superficial world?

Both Van Gogh and Rembrandt have tremendously influenced not only Dutch art but also historical art around the world. Visiting the exhibition provided me with a nuanced and intriguing perspective on the artists’ life stories and it made me realize how many people still honor their art. When you learn more about the stories behind the paintings you are looking at, you always discover something new.  So whether or not you consider yourself a cultural person, I believe you will find value in these masterpieces. Art is what you make yourself.

Although not all exhibitions bring the art to life quite as much as the ‘Vincent Meets Rembrandt’, you could try to do it yourself. When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at can change. “The most beautiful paintings are the ones you never make, but only imagine and dream of,” Vincent’s voice expressed during the exhibition. As I walked out of the church, I was left with the feeling that I had met both artists in person. The entire experience felt like I was getting lost in a world of wonders.

“The most beautiful paintings are the ones you never make, but only imagine and dream of.” – Vincent van Gogh

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