I first heard of Van Gogh when I started my banking career with the Dutch bank ABN AMRO over a decade ago. Van Gogh Preferred Banking was a select range of services offered by the bank to rich and privilidged. It took me a few attempts to get the pronunciation right to ensure that I do not make a fool of myself in front of my Dutch counterparts. Some fellow bankers raved of Van Gogh’s work while others called him the ‘tortured painter’, without an ear. My naive mind assumed he was deaf. Little did I know that he had cut off his own ear on account of a psychotic episode! Or did his friend accidentally chop it off in a bout of fencing? I came to know of a lot more about this genius when I visited the Van Gogh Museum at Amsterdam. The museum had a collection of art that amazed me and made me appreciate paintings in a way that I had never known.
To those who are curious to know more about Van Gogh, read on for a few interesting facts….
- Vincent had a brother, also named Vincent, who was still born on the same date one year earlier. His grandfather’s name was also Vincent. While Vincent was born in the Netherlands, he spent a major part of his life in Belgium and France. If you are in any of these locations (especially in Auvers, France) and want to get a feel of what his life was, you can take a ‘Van Gogh Walking Tour’ with a local tour operator.
- As a child, Vincent wanted to be a pastor. Had he continued with his idea, the world would have never seen his artistic side, which would have been a colossal loss to the world of art!
- Vincent’s initial career days were spent as being an unsuccessful art dealer. He started painting when he was 27. It’s never to late to start, isn’t it?
- Vincent produced 2,000 artworks, consisting of around 900 paintings and 1,100 drawings and sketches. Almost all 900 paintings were made in the last ten years of his life.
Vincent was able to sell only one painting in his lifetime, titled The Red Vineyard; all the others were sold after his death, thanks to the efforts made by his brother’s wife.
- Vincent loved selfies…seriously! He made ~30 self portraits!
- Vincent was never married and possibly, had tough luck in love. He proposed to three women; none accepted the proposal.
- Vincent wrote over 800 letters in his lifetime. Most of them were written to his brother Theo, who was also his closest friend.
- Vincent suffered from temporal lobe epilepsy as well as other mental and physical conditions. He even spent time in a mental asylum in France and painted his most famous painting The Starry Night while he was there.
- Vincent did chop off a part of his ear lobe… but just a part… not the entire ear lobe, as is believed by many. There are different version of how and when it happened… some say that he gave it to a prostitute… some say that it got chopped off in a fight with his friend Gauguin… while others say that he gave it to Gauguin.
- Vincent died when he was 37. Some say he committed suicide, while others say that he was shot by two teenage boys. He survived two days after being shot, but death won the battle.
Ankur and I spent over two hours at the Van Gogh museum. We saw his paintings, tried to understand his inspiration to paint and the subjects that he painted.
We read letters that were exchanged between him and his brother Theo to get a sense of what went on in the heart and mind of an artist so great. Ankur and I aren’t art connoisseurs. Regardless, we appreciated the work of art that was displayed at the museum and would recommend that you do visit the museum if you are in Amsterdam.
Here are some tips if you do intend to visit the Van Gogh Museum…
- The museum is open daily from 9 am to 6 pm, Fridays until 10 pm
- Ticket to the museum costs EUR 17 per person. However, if you have the I Amsterdam City Card or the Museumkaart, entrance to the museum is free.
- The line to buy a ticket is fairly long. We were here in February, which is off season and saw people waiting for over an hour to get their ticket. It would make a lot of sense to book your ticket online in order to speed the process. However, you need to choose a time when you buy the online ticket. There is a separate like for holders of the I Amsterdam City Card – the fastest way to get in!
- Multimedia guides can be rented by paying EUR 5 additionally.
- There is a lovely little cafe inside the museum with some delightful cakes. There is also a well stocked souvenir shop which even has teddy bears made of prints of Van Gogh paintings!
Cheers to awakening the art connoisseur in you!
Photography is not allowed in the Van Gogh Museum, except at ‘selfie’ points. The pictures in this post (which do not bear our watermark have been taken from the Van Gogh Museum website and www.VanGogh.net)