What a sunny and chilly day in Amsterdam!  8°C outside and I forgot to pack my winter jacket.  It was COLD!  I covered myself in layers of clothes as I was determined to venture out for a brisk walk and then visit the Van Gogh Museum.

Walking along the canals, I couldn’t stop admiring the splendid homes.  Amsterdam houses are full of character with beautiful exterior window trim, stunning brickwork and strikingly crafted statues attached to the buildings.  The tall and narrow feature reminds me of classy, slim ladies.  I just fell in love with these amazing and well-maintained homes.

After grabbing a scone and a croissant from a local bakery shop, I headed to the Van Gogh Museum, a contemporary gray building located on the edge of a huge open gassy area in Museumplein.  No one was playing on the grass, but I could hear people playing sports, kids running, families picnicking on warmer days.

After entering the museum, I quietly strolled through each floor and enjoyed viewing each piece slowly as if I were sipping a cup of tea.  It was a thrill to witness some well-known pieces with my own eyes: the two versions of The Bedroom, various Self-Portraits, Sunflowers, the Zouvae and multiple Almond Blossoms paintings.  The great upside of selling only one painting during his lifetime is that an almost complete collection of his arts can be centralized for us to visit in one location.

Three new discoveries for me about Van Gogh:

–       He only decided to be an artist 10 years before his death.

–       Once he decided he wanted to be an artist, he did nothing but art.

–       He was not as talented as we all believe, but he worked incredibly hard and produced over 900 pieces of art in a short span of 10 years.

He decided to become an artist, when he was 27 (1880).  He studied with Antone Mauve, went to the Academie Royale des Beaux-Arts, travelled to Antwerp, Paris, and Arles as well as other places to learn and study.

“Hard work beats talent, when talent fails to work hard.”— Kevin Durant

He also had little natural talent for artistic proportion and the illusion of depth.  For a long time, he used a perspective frame; a tool that helps artists renders proportions and depth accurately.  He also used tracing paper on which he drew a grid to help him enlarge compositions and transfer them to canvas.

“I don’t think of all the misery, but of the beauty that still remains.”—Anne Frank

He was extremely focused about what he wanted to accomplish.  He created approximately 900 paintings during his lifetime and most of them were done in the ten-year span between 1880 and his death in 1890.  His most famous piece, Starry Night (a collection in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City), was completed, when he was in an asylum.  The 2nd version of the Bedroom with brighter colors and a sense of optimism was also finished when he was in the institution.   I can’t help thinking about Beethoven who created the sublime and heavenly Symphony No. 9, when he was totally deaf.

Like the rebirth of a Phoenix, they went through fire and came out with more strength and creativity than ever before.  The beauty of life is elevated, only when you give everything you have.  In their darkest time, they still manage not only to see the stars, but also the warm sunlight behind their personal darkness.

Bill Watterson said it well:

 “That’s one of the remarkable things about life. It’s never so bad that it can’t get worse.”

I was greeted by chilly wind from the North Sea when I exited the museum.  Strangely, I didn’t feel cold anymore.

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Pam Didner

Posted on

December 3, 2013

Personal Journal, Story Telling
  • It sounds like you had a lovely visit, Pam.

    Thanks for sharing and taking us there with you 🙂