Van Gogh Museum – Amsterdam, Netherlands

Shrine to a 19th-Century Native Son

A major refurbishment of the main building of the van Gogh Museum and a dramatic new annex designed by Japanese architect Kisho Kurokawa unveiled in June 1999 confirmed the Netherlands’—and the world’s— steadfast Vincent worship.

Vincent van Gogh (1853—1890) was the 19th century’s most important Dutch artist, and what an outstanding home his 200 paintings, 500 drawings, and 700 letters now have. Visitors and architects call the new annex, clad in gray stone and titanium steel, both striking and welcoming.

In the light-filled space of the annex’s fusion of Japanese and European sensibilities, all of van Gogh’s paintings in the collection can now be displayed for the first time, from his earli­est work, done in 1881 in the Netherlands, to those done just days before his suicide in France at the age of thirty-seven.

“I should like to do portraits which will appear as reve­lations to people in a hundred years’ time,” the prolific artist wrote to his sister Wil just before his death.

You may agree with some of the Amster­dammers who find the architecture jarring, but after you’ve seen the vibrant colors and daz­zling landscapes of this visionary genius, all you’ll remember is the art. You may not have known their names, but you’ll recognize the images: The Potato Eaters, Sunflowers, and Wheatfield with Crows.

Van Gogh’s anguished life is easily detectable, its abrupt end readily foreseeable in some of his more turbulent paintings. Works by dozens of artists who influenced him, or whom van Gogh in­fluenced in turn, are also on display.

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