For years I was following the incredible project to make a fully hand-painted movie about painter Vincent van Gogh. Whereas the old-fashioned cartoons were made out of drawings, this movie would consists of actual paintings. It took a team of 125 artists from around the globe several years to paint an astonishing 65.000 paintings in the style of the Dutch Master. The results are simply spectacular. Telling the story about Vincent, and especially his final days in the village Auvers-sur-Oise, just Northwest of Paris, the film was received with great reviews around the world. It won the award for Best Animated Feature Film at the European Film Festival in Berlin and was nominated for an Academy Award.
As a Dutchman myself, needless to say that we are very proud in the Netherlands of such a big artist. Well, besides Rembrandt, Vermeer and several others of course. But Van Gogh’s popularity around the world makes him beyond doubt Holland’s most beloved artist. I noticed the enthusiasm for Van Gogh during the first Amsterdam Light Festival trip in January 2014. After a lovely guided walk from the Central Station to the Rijksmuseum (two similar buildings designed by Pierre Cuypers) many of us visited the Van Gogh museum. And so the first Van Gogh Expat Club trip was a fact.
Now, almost seven years later we have already carried out several editions of two other Van Gogh trips, namely a trip to the Kröller-Müller museum near Arnhem that houses the world’s second largest collection of Van Gogh works, and another trip the village where he was born (Zundert) and where he became a Master Painter (Nuenen), as well as to Den Bosch where about a dozen original works are on display in the Noordbrabants Museum.
Due to the success of these trips, as well as our annual visit to Claude Monet’s village Giverny (70km West of Paris), we have designed two additional Van Gogh trips, making the total now five! Let’s take a closer look at each of them.
1 – Amsterdam Light Festival / Van Gogh Museum
Ok, we admit, the main reason to travel to the Dutch capital is … to visit the Dutch capital. Amsterdam is one of the world’s most beautiful and most vibrant cities. With its 17th century canal system, great shopping possibilities, lively nightlife and incredible art scene, makes it one of the nicest places in Europe to visit. And it’s only a 3 hours drive from Brussels, so perfect for a day trip. We usually visit the city in January when the city is decorated with light sculptures, so our early evening activity consists of making a lovely canal tour along many of them.
The morning and afternoon part of this trip are reserved for a professionally guided walk through the city center and a visit to the Van Gogh Museum. Getting tickets is usually a big deal due to the massive number of visitors, namely around 2.15 million the past years. But as with any Expat Club trip, we make sure to reserve timed-entry tickets well in advance so you can focus on enjoying the day.
The museum is located on the Museum Square, at just a stone’s throw from the Rijksmuseum. It houses by far the largest collection in the world with 200 paintings, 400 drawings, and 700 letters by the artist, among which the Potato Eaters, Sunflowers, The Yellow House and Almond Blossoms.
2 – The Kröller-Müller Museum
Tucked away in the largest National Park in Holland, de Hoge Veluwe, one can find one of Holland’s most famous museums outside of Amsterdam, the Kröller-Müller Museum. It is a very diverse museum, housing many different art styles, complemented with a sculpture garden, but no doubt the Van Gogh collection is the main attraction.
With another version of The Potato Eaters, Country Road in the Province by Night, and one of Vincent’s most famous ones, the Café Terrace at Night, the museum is totally worth a visit.
It’s a bit of a ride to De Hoge Veluwe National Park, so before we visit the museum we stop at our favourite Dutch hotel chain for a great lunch (Van der Valk Arnhem). Upon arrival at the museum we are welcomed by several professional museum guides who will take us through the museum, and in particular focus on the Van Gogh collection. In the later afternoon we still enjoy some time to the National Parks Visitors Center and the park itself.
3 – Van Gogh’s Earlier Life
At Expat Club we believe one sometimes has to take time to understand an artist. Going straight for the Masterpieces in one of the museums around the world is certainly not the best way to learn more about him or her. And with that said, I am so happy that we expats in Brussels are so lucky since we are so close to 2 lovely villages that are key to Vincent’s life.
In the morning we visit Zundert, just across the Belgian-Dutch border at 40km from Antwerp. This is the place where Vincent was born and raised. His father was a pastor in the local protestant church. The graveyard around the church is the final resting place of Vincent’s brother Vincent, who died exactly one year before his own birth.
A guide takes us to the church while telling about his life, while also guiding us through the Van Gogh House. Although there are no original Van Gogh works there (the insurance costs alone would be too much), there are many interesting things to see and read. After the first visit we travel onward to another Van der Valk hotel near Tilburg for a great lunch buffet, after which we continue to Nuenen.
In Nuenen Van Gogh painted many beautiful paintings, including the small church, a bridge and of course The Potato Eaters. We visit the Vincentre, where we learn more about the live of the Master, while a professional guide takes us through the village and stand on the exact spots where Vincent immortalised his paint on linnen. Finally, for some editions of this trip we travel also to the beautiful city of ‘s Hertogenbosch where we visit the Noordbrabants Museum and look at about a dozen original Van Gogh works.
4 – Vincent in the Provence
At the end of the 1880’s, Vincent moved to the South of France, to the scenic Provence. He ended up in Arles, not too far from Avignon, where he produced a multitude of paintings and drawings, most of which are now considered major works of art of the late 19th century.
Our local expert art guide will take us to the sites featured in some of Van Gogh’s most treasured paintings, including Le Café de Nuit, the Bedroom in Arles. We will get to visit the asylum in Saint-Rémy where Van Gogh went and discover the amazing views that inspired him.
The trip will take us by direct TGV from Brussels to Avignon, where we’ll stay in a nice hotel at walking distance from the station and the city center. Needless to say we visit the historic city itself with a guide and in particular the Papal Palace, the Cathedral and the half bridge.
The rest of the weekend we also visit a roman aquaduct, the scenic Camarque regions with its salt lakes, flamingos and wild horses, the coastal town of Saintes-Maries de la Mer, and the historic town of Nîmes. What a trip, which was already great due to our beloved Vincent.
5 – Auvers-sur-Oise: Van Gogh’s final resting place
The theme of the trip may justify it to be the last Van Gogh trip on our list. Sadly, on this trip we travel to the place where Vincent cut his ear, shot himself, and where he is buried next to his brother Theo.
This trip is actually part of a larger trip focused on impressionist and post-impressionist painters. We drive off on Friday evening to Paris, stay there for the night, and begin our Saturday with visiting the Musée Marmottan Monet in the morning, and then travel for just an hour to go to Giverny, the famous village of Monet where he painted around the pond with the water lilies and Japanese bridge. We enjoy a guided tour in the Monet gardens and house, visit the Musée des Impressionisms, and explore this beautiful art village. In the evening we return to Paris for a night visit to the Eiffel Tower.
The next morning we spend much time in one of the world’s leading art institutions, the Musée d’Orsay located on the opposite river bank from the Louvre Museum. Here we’ll explore with a guide the insanely impressive 5th floor of the impressionist and post-impressionist painters, including Monet, Manet, Renoir, Cézanne, Gauguin and of course Vincent Van Gogh.
Finally, on Sunday afternoon we travel to Auvers-sur-Oise, where Vincent lived in the final months of his life (1890). Lunch or dinner will be served in the famous Auberge Ravoux and visit the room in which he stayed and died. Our guides, who will have stayed with us for the entire weekend, will of course show us also the rest of the village, including the church and the cemetery.
We will end our weekend trip at the cemetery, at the final resting place of Vincent van Gogh and his brother Theo van Gogh.
Isn’t it sad that one of the world’s greatest painters only sold one single painting in his entire life? It concerns the Red Vineyards near Arles (1888). Funnily enough it was actually sold right here in Brussels in 1990 for just 400 Francs. That’s around €2000 in current day value, but it is likely to sell for a bit more if it would be auctioned.
With current auction values running in the tens of millions for many of his paintings, hypothetically one could assess the total value of his entire oeuvre. It’s not that the Van Gogh Museum keeps such a calculation, but Google search leads us to an art publisher who is willing to make an educated rough guess.
The influence of an artists does not necessarily measure in sheer money value. When I lived in Amsterdam at just 6-7 minutes from the Van Gogh Museum, I can say that the lines to get in were often insane (hence the timed-entry tickets nowadays). His paintings do something to people that is rarely seen with other artists. He may very well be the most popular artists of all time. That fact makes it hard to believe how difficult his life actually was.
Now I understand
What you tried to say to me
And how you suffered for your sanity
And how you tried to set them free
They would not listen, they did not know how
Perhaps they’ll listen now
– Don McLean
If we could only travel back in time to June 1890 to Auvers-sur-Oise and take him with us to Amsterdam, Zundert, Nuenen, Arles, Paris or any other place where his life and work is out there for everyone to enjoy.