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

Vincent van Gogh (1853 – 1890) is one of the dutch painting giants. As you probably know, Van Gogh sold only one painting during his lifetime. Only a few years after his death, he was already recognised as one of the greatest painters of all time.

Van Goghs life was characterised by mania, depression, loneliness and desperation. His painting career only lasted for ten years. Only at the age of 27, when all other plans and projects to earn his own money had failed, he decided to become an artist. In 1878/79, he lived a short while in Amsterdam, to catch up on his knowledge of Greek and Latin because he wanted to become a preacher. As all his plans, it came to nothing. In this period, Vincent did not paint at all. Probably he made some drawings – but apparently, none survived.

The paintings we show here were made during a short stay in 1885 in Amsterdam, when Vincent van Gogh visited the Rijksmuseum. At the time, Van Gogh was living in Nuenen and had started his short, explosive career as an artist. Van Gogh still painted in somber gray and brown colours – the painter that is famous for his luminous, colourful works was still two years away.

In 1885, the Rijksmuseum was brand new had just opened its doors to the public. Van Gogh sat there for hours looking at Rembrandts ‘Jewish bride’, admiring its colours and Rembrandts extraordinary brushwork.

Van Gogh painted both paintings – painted sketches, actually – in the waiting room of the Amsterdam Central Station, that was still being built in 1885 (designed by the architect of the Rijksmuseum, Pierre Cuypers). This is a view on the Koepelkerk (Cupola Church). No longer in use for religious services, the Koepelkerk is now one of the Netherlands top 3 wedding locations (at least, so they say themselves).

The second painted sketch by Van Gogh shows the view from the other side of the Central Station, towards the De Ruijterkade and the river IJ. Modern developments of the river bank, especially its northern bank, have completeley changed the view. From the Muziekgebouw (also known as the Bimhuis), the location of our Closing Event, you will have a majestic view over the river IJ.

After making these quick paint sketches, Vincent jumped on the train that would bring him back to Nuenen.