Orangemania in Amsterdam

Amsterdam has pulled out all the stops for the World Cup with orange balloons and bunting, and lots of fans in orange tee-shirts. The roar that went up when Holland qualified for the next stage could be heard everywhere – even on a canalboat where we were doing the obligatory – but delightful – sightseeing tour.

The highlight of the trip was of course the Rijksmuseum – free of orange decorations but with mysterious messages on yellow squared paper plastered on walls here and there – more about that below. Your blogger can recommend the introductory tour – 5 Euros on top of the admission charge. Our energetic guide explained the rather confusing entrance layout – it had been impossible to close the cycle route which now passes through the building – so look out when crossing the road!

Once inside a vast Atrium has been created by Spanish architects, Cruzy Ortiz, from a former inner courtyard revealing the brick walls of the old building. This houses the shop, the café and information desks designed to handle large number of visitors – it’s already breaking records with more 2m visitors in the first year (the refurbished museum opened after 10 years’ work last April). The noise which usually pervades in these places has been reduced by installing a geometric and rather beautiful ceiling decoration which also carries the lighting.

On to the Nightwatch….

The Highlights tours appropriately ends in front of the famous Nightwatch painting, so popular it has two gallery attendants on permanent “watch”, one on either side. Useful information sheets in the Honour Gallery help visitors to identify the various elements of this famous picture – even President Obama came to see it. The focus on this painting and the surrounding Dutch art does not seem to stop people even on a Monday from visiting every part of the building. Maybe the third floor with an excellent display on 20th century Dutch design or the new Asian art wing were not quite so thronged.

After an overload a Dutch genre paintings, we headed for the 19th century gallery with its well-known Napoleon portrait and one of his brother, Louise – how many people knew that he was made King of the Netherlands for a short time? The huge Battle of Waterloo painting (the largest in the museum) by Jan Willem Pieneman does not perhaps attract quite as many people as the Nightwatch but it was brilliantly displayed. Your blogger also delved into the smaller but atmospheric Renaissance collection – with glass, furniture and ceramics displayed side by side – and found a Veronese portrait of Daniele Barbera!

The original entrance hall is now a small coffeeshop but I can recommend the Atrium café, excellent service, great choice of lunch dishes, coffee and of course cakes!

Profound messages on yellow stickers….

The large yellow stickers with “thoughtful” commentary in Dutch and English which appeared here and there in the galleries were apparently generated by Alain de Botton, the philospher, who was invited to apply is Art is Therapy to art works this April. These are designed to highlight the therapeutic effect of art rather than concentrating on the artist or the work’s history. Each set of comments address the feelings the visitor may have when seeing the object, love, hate, etc. Watching people’s general confusion about this additional information sprinkled through the museum, your blogger hopes that Alain De Botton will not be let loose in any other museum anywhere else.

On to Van Gogh….

The Rijksmuseums is part of the bustling Museum Quarter, outside the old even more bustling city-centre. And here lies the Van Gogh museum, where a new imposing glass and steel entrance is under construction, opening in 2015. The museum certainly needs something of a shot in the arm. After the vibrant colours and atmosphere of the Rijksmuseum it seemed oddly muted and cold, strange when you think of the great man’s penchant for colour.

The building opened in 1973 and has been added to and extended several times. The collection is displayed on three floors with galleries linked by an open staircase and lifts. Most interesting – your blogger having just visited the excellent “Making Colour” exhibition at the National Gallery – was the display on Van Gogh and colours, showing the various pigments and the newly arrived ready-mixed colours in tubes which enabled him to create those thickly almost sculpted dramatic paintings.

A good café here, as well, self service but with views of the building site. Both museums have wonderful shops.

The Stejdelik and the Anne Frank museum

Both these were also on the list for this short visit, but the Stejdelik museum of contemporary art is closed on Mondays, and there were long queues for the little Anne Frank Museum. On our canal tour we spotted a number of other possibilities – the Museum of House Boats, The Tulip Museum, and the even odder, Museum of Bags and Purses! But we didn’t go in.

Finding Veronese: Memoir of a Painting by Ylva French, now available at as an E-book in the Kindle Store. See also for the pictures and the story of the book.

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