Let’s face it, 125 years is not the most resonant of anniversaries, but it is good enough excuse for Holland to make a fuss about one of its greatest painters – Vincent Van Gogh.
Last month saw the biggest event in this, the anniversary year – the reopening of an extension to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, the city’s second most-visited tourist attraction, and a blockbuster exhibition which pits his paintings against those of Edvard Munch.
It’s the first time that these two painters – responsible for some of the most radical developments in style and imagery in the history of art have been shown together in a major exhibition for more than 100 years.
A good reason to head to Holland this autumn? It’s certainly true that if you want to commune with the spirit of Van Gogh, who died in 1890, you really need to head further south – to Arles and St Rémy in Provence, where for two years his work blossomed and he produced the vast majority of his most famous paintings.
Or to Auvers-sur-Oise, just north of Paris, where Van Gogh spent the last weeks of his life, and where he lies buried in a remote country graveyard.
But while the muted skies of Auvers and the brilliant light and colour of the Provencal landscapes are immediately recognisable, and make for a wonderful art-themed holiday, there are no original paintings to see in either destination – apart from the occasional loan to the museum in Arles.
To see Van Gogh in all his glory, you have to come to Holland. And because of the anniversary, the next three months are the best opportunity for many years. Here are the key events and places to visit.
Van Gogh Museum
Some 250 paintings – about a quarter of Vincent’s surviving work – are held in the permanent collection here, as well as letters and a significant collection of works by contemporary artists such as Gauguin.
Highlights of the collection, in addition to a fabulous series of self-portraits, include some of his most iconic works – one of the sunflower paintings of 1889, The Yellow House, The Bedroom, Irises, Almond Blossom, Wheatfields with Crows and The Sower.
Until January 17, many of the best known works have been hung in the Munch: Van Gogh exhibition in the adjoining galleries. This means that more paintings than ever have been put on display in the permanent collection.
But the great appeal of visiting now is the chance to make direct comparisons between two artists who never met, but whose creative development had many parallels, and who each used their art to wrestle with a profound sense of existential angst.
For example, a version of The Scream is hung alongside Van Gogh’s late, brooding Wheatfields, and the two Starry Nights where each seems to find some solace in the dark skies.
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Vincent Van Gogh House
Van Gogh was born in 1853 in the local parsonage in the pretty village of Zundert near the southern border with Belgium. It’s a place of pilgrimage for devoted fans, but you will have to use your imagination if you follow in their footsteps.
The house has been converted into a museum, but there are none of his paintings nor much that is authentic here – you must rely on an audio visual experience – The Roots of a Master – to reimagine life with the Van Goghs in the 1850s and 60s.
Apart from the museum, there is also a tour of the village – you can go on foot or by bike – highlighting 21 stops with a connection to the painter.
De Hoge Veluwe National Park
Much lesser-known, and well off the normal tourist track, the Kroller-Muller is tucked away in the middle of the De Hoge Veluwe national park, about 97 kilometres east of Amsterdam.
It holds the world’s second largest collection of paintings by Van Gogh (about 80 works in all) which was given to the Dutch state in 1938 by the art connoisseur Helene Kroller-Muller, along with key works by Picasso, Gauguin, and the Impressionists.
The 50-acre garden is the setting for more than 150 sculptures, including works by Rodin, Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore. Kroller-Muller was the leading collector of Van Gogh’s paintings, and among the works on display are a rare female nude, the wonderful portrait of Joseph Roulin, the postmaster in Arles, a self-portrait from 1887, and the great Terrace of a Cafe at Night.
About 65 kilometres from Zundert, Noordbrabants Museum has just (October 10) opened an exhibition of paintings which Van Gogh produced during his years in Zundert, and the Brabants region.
There are 16 of his works on display, including an early self-portrait, and a beautiful still life from 1884. Another new exhibition, charting Van Gogh’s eventual rise to fame has also opened here.
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This article was written by Nick Trend from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.