Sunday, January 13, 2013

My Artist Date at the Van Gogh, My Dream Exhibition

I am in a book club with some fabulous creative women. We are reading the Artist Way by Julia Cameron which is such an amazing book in so many ways. In the first chapter which we are doing in the whole month of January Julia gave us 10 tasks. 10 Home work assignments.  The second task / assignment is to take yourself out on a date. An Artist Date. This you should do every week for the duration of this course. Which in my our case will last 52 weeks. This means I get to go on a date with myself 52 times this year! Yeah me!

Here is how I got to spend the date with myself. My first date. Of many more dates to come.

In Amsterdam we have the real deal with Vincent van Gogh.

The impressionist painter has his own museum here. I have been (of course) and enjoyed it but now we also have a temporary exhibition called Van Gogh, My Dream Exhibition.

                                                               The Beurs van Berlage. 

"Why?" I hear you say.

Because over the years the paintings have fallen to some decay. The bright colors that Vincent van Gogh had used have faded. The brightness is no longer there.

The little square shows how the original painting is nowadays. 

The bright colors have faded away.      

The thought behind this exhibition was to bring the paintings back to the way that he intended (or so they think). As Vincent has written quite a number of letters to his brother Theo describing his paintings in detail,  they have taken 200 of his most famous paintings (he did so many many more) and digitally enhanced the paintings with bright colors Vincent might have used. Plus 7 of those paintings are shown in 3D which they say is quite the experience.

The exhibition is held in an Unesco monumental building that used to be the commodity market or merchants exchange of Amsterdam, the predecessor of the Stock Exchange. In the basement where the ice cellars and vaults are 1400 square meters of exhibition space was created specially for this.


Armed with my camera I walked up the steps and entered the building. I  passed the cafe and bought my ticket, then down the stairs to enter the basement. Classical music greeted me the second I walked into the space but I was also surprised to hear the loud noise of people eating. I admired the first few paintings and the sounds of cutlery on plates grew louder and louder. And I thought geez, this is noisy. They must have the tables of the cafe right next to the walls of the exhibition. How silly. And the sound grew even louder, so much so you could barely hear the classical music playing. Choosing to ignore it I came upon the Potato Eaters. One of his most famous paintings.

I know, I know!! I make lousy pictures. You were allowed to make snaps but without flash. That bright spot on top of the painting is the spotlight that was on the painting.
I looked it up online and in real life the painting is excessively more darker and more grey so this really is an improvement. Right next to the painting was the first 3D booth of the painting of the Potato Eaters. And still that irritating noise of the cafe was right there behind that wall.

I put on my special 3D glasses (would have loved to know what I looked like with them on, but there were no mirrors) and entered the booth. WoW. That is all I can say. WOW.
Of this painting he did (like all of his paintings) first some sketches, and pre studies with paint and then of course the actual painting. The 3D display showed it all.

                                 I tried the capture the 3D magic on photo but failed miserably.

As they played the movie and images I realized that the sound of the cafe was in fact coming from the booth simulating the sound of the forks on the plates of the folks eating the potatoes. Well duh !!!! Slapping myself for this blond moment. Of course it was. Because the cafe is upstairs and the exhibition is downstairs.
I must have been there for 10 or 15 minutes seeing this 3D display over and over again. Moving the special glasses on and off my nose to see how on earth they did this 3D miracle. The 3D perspective is so AMAZING!!! I cannot figure out how they did it. It is like one of those 3D theater displays you used to make at schools with layers and layers to create dept. This was the same. The dept is fantastic. It blew my mind.

Moving on I viewed the many paintings. Took countless of pictures and entered 6 more 3D booths. These really blew my mind and of everything I saw the 3D was the best bit. Even if there were only 7.

The Orchard series:

van Gogh painted the Vase with Sunflowers in several versions. Apparently he made no less then 14!.
In 3D again this was mesmerizing. I. Could. NOT. Leave. the. Booth!! Totally consumes your senses.
Again I flipped the glasses on and off just to see figure out the magic behind this. I swear, I could spend a whole day in these booths.

 This is a set of 3. Van Gogh made it specially so the color of yellow in the lady's face was enhanced       by the paintings of Sunflowers.

Here are 2 versions of Starry Night:

The Raising of Lazarus (done after he was send an etching of Rembrandt from his brother Theo). This one shows how it is now, as you can see the colors have faded.

Because Vincent described in great detail to his brother what colors he used this must be how he intended the painting to look like. Quite a difference.

Because I took so many photo's you would be sitting here all day. I just show a few more in any random order of the exhibition.

We now left the previous ice cellars of this building and entered the vault. Where they kept all the money. This part of the building is beautiful. Seriously!

Look at those impressive faults gates! And below some of the vaults doors. Wouldn't want to drop those on your toes.

Wheatfield with crows. The 3D version shows you the wheat waving in the wind and with a lot of noise the crows flying in over you. DUCK!!!!

The last paintings in the vault were a series of self portraits of Vincent van Gogh. But my photo's of those were extremely blurry (bleep!)  So therefor a self portrait of me in the giftshop.

This exhibition was truely something else. One the one hand the colors were yummy. Bright and vibrant. The 3D booths were absolutely AMAZING!!!

On the other hand I was somewhat disappointed. The reason for this is that they were not real paintings. They were (as I knew) photo's of the paintings and than digitally enhanced. What was lacking were the brush strokes. The sense of reality. To see the canvas and the thick blobs of paints. It was not there. This was a let down (but only a little).

I resisted the lure of the gift shop although they had some wonderful things but if I am going on a date once a week I better not spend anything in the gift shop. My purse would be empty and my house full. 

All in all this was a fun date. Can't wait for the next one.


  1. Yes, Renee! I loved your date. I felt like I was there with you. Thanks for taking us through. I like your self portrait at the end. I need to type up my Artist Date blog...I had it all ready to go and something wonky happened and it was gone! Ha. Maybe you just inspired me to do it over. I plan on going on 1 good date a month since we are taking it a chapter a month...maybe 2 way I can get in 52! Happy Artist Dating!

  2. Hahaha Thank you Amy!!! It really was fun. You know, this took me almost a week to type. Have to do it quicker then that next time. Shame you have to do yours over but please do. I want to read about it!!!!

    big hug (( ♥ ))

  3. Renee this is fantastic! I am so happy you got to go see such an excellent exhibit!!! YAY! I love it! Thank you for sharing so many amazing pictures!

  4. Awesome! Awesome! and awesome Renée, you actually took my artist on a date with this post. What a fabulous exhibit and what a treat for you and then for me thousands of miles away! It really made me want to take my artist on a more official date after seeing this. Bless you... made my day! So well done :-)

  5. I agree with LIsa - i think my artist enjoyed reading the post. What an amazing exhibit - and I loved the way you described it - so conversationally! (I'm not sure that is a word!)

  6. GREAT post Renee and even though we are over 3500 miles/6000 kilometers away, I feel as though I walked through that amazing exhibit with you. I was sitting right there with you peeking out from the 3D glasses and walking into those huge vaults! What a wonderful date you took me on...thank you! You've inspired me to blog about my next date which will be sometime this week. Still not sure what I'm doing but something. :)

  7. What a great date! The enhanced paintings are stunning, thank you so much for sharing this with us!