In our countdown to Amsterdam, we show sketches made in Amsterdam by some of the ‘old masters’ and pictures of the views they painted as they are now.

by Roger Klaassen

Claude Monet (1840 – 1926) was one of the founding fathers of ‘Impressionism’. The invention of the paint tube allowed artists to paint outside (plein air) – a revolution in art. Impressionists made their paintings very quickly, trying to capture the light and atmosphere of the moment. At first, the Impressionists were heavily criticized and even ridiculed for their loose, imprecise and sketchy way of painting – qualities we now admire and love.

Monet visited the Netherlands several times, looking for the famous dutch light. In 1874, he visited Amsterdam, where he made twelve paintings. He also bought loads of Japanese woodprints while he was there (the Netherland had for two centuries been the only European country to have trade relations with Japan), firing off a rage for Japanese art in France.

This is Monets painting of the Peperbrug (Pepper Bridge) – with the Montelbaanstoren in de background. As you can see, the bridge has completely been rebuilt after Monet’s visit. The bridge you can see today was constructed in 1929, but because of its iron frame it has a nineteenth century feel to it. It is a national monument.

Monet also painted several views on our main venue, the Zuiderkerk. The church was built in the early 1600s and was in use for religious services until 1929. A gloomy episode in its history is the last winter of the Second World War (1944/45) – the so-called Hunger Winter. At that time, the building was used to ‘store’ bodies of Amsterdammers died from hunger and exhaustion, until they could be buried. In the 1970s, the building was in a very bad state and it had to be closed. A major renovation restored the church to its current glory. The view nowadays is almost identical to the one 150 years ago – an opportunity to draw the same view and be as close as you can to Monet – are you ready to take up the challenge?