Did you know that the Van Gogh Museum Amsterdam, in the Netherlands, is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year?
One of the highlights of this celebratory year is, for sure, a new and temporary Van Gogh Exhibit: “Van Gogh in Auvers – His Final Months.”
During the final seven weeks of his life, Van Gogh, known for his bright colors, created 74 paintings. That is more than one a day! Can you imagine that?
Fifty of these are now together in one gallery for the first time. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. They may never be together again.
Normally, only 12 paintings are locally owned in Amsterdam, while most of the others reside at the Musee d’Orsay in Paris. The exhibition is only possible because the heirs of Dr. Gachet, who owned most of the works (more about him later), donated the paintings to Musee d’Orsay on one condition, they could never be loaned, except to a dedicated Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam if there ever was going to be one…
The fact that we can see them together is quite remarkable and if you have the opportunity, a very good reason to come to Amsterdam while the exhibition lasts.
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Dates Van Gogh Exhibit: “Van Gogh in Auvers – His Final Months”
This unique Van Gogh exhibition starts May 12, 2023, and lasts until September 3, 2023. Once the show in Amsterdam ends, the same collection will travel to Musee d’Orsay. So if you miss it in Amsterdam, you still have another opportunity in Paris.
I highly recommend seeing it here in Amsterdam, though. Why? Because here are the most Van Gogh paintings together.
The Auvers His Last Months exhibition can be seen in the temporary exhibit building for you to enjoy. You can also access the regular collection in the main building for the same price. It’s like you get a 2-1.
This way, you also enjoy this talented artist’s most beloved Van Gogh Paintings. The basis. Like the iconic “Potato Eaters,” “The Yellow House,” “The Sunflowers,” and “The Almond Blossom,” and, of course, his “Self Portrait(s).”
All these beloved paintings have their home in Amsterdam. This part of the exhibit will not travel to France. Amsterdam is the best place to enjoy his colorful art and see why Vincent Van Gogh is such a big part of Dutch culture and Western art.
Vincent Van Gogh Was Just 37 Years Old When He Died
When Vincent (1853–1890) died, he was just 37 years old. He died two days after he was shot due to his gunshot wounds. How did he get shot? That is debated, but it was – most likely – suicide, which would make sense. Vincent was mentally ill, and life weighed heavy on him.
There are also stories out there that others shot him after a fight. Also quite possible since Vincent was not always an easy person to deal with and was socially awkward.
The Van Gogh Museum thinks suicide is the most likely cause of death. It is also the official reason for his death certificate.
Why was Vincent Van Gogh’s Life So Short?
To understand this special Van Gogh exhibit better is to understand what went on inside his mind before his suicide.
The most important thing to understand is that Vincent never felt accomplished as an artist. He also felt he was always a burden to others.
Vincent was not a natural artist. He had to learn and work very hard to achieve his dream. And he did. What made Vincent Van Gogh so extraordinary was his work ethic. He gave it his all and was a genius, but recognition never came during his lifetime.
One Rejection After The Other
Until the “Potato Eaters” in 1885, Vincent saw himself as an amateur still learning. But with the Potato Eaters, he felt he created his first “Masterpiece.” He was proud.
But the world felt quite different. He received very harsh criticism. His good friend Van Rappard said: “You’ll agree with me that such work isn’t intended seriously. You can do better than this.” Ouch.
Vincent Van Gogh Only Sold One Painting In His Life
No matter how hard he tried in life, he never succeeded. He sold just one creation during his lifetime, for in today’s money, just a few dollars.
His romantic relations failed one by one, and every time it was the woman who ended the relationship. Now Vincent was demanding and self-centered, but it must have been heartbreaking and devastating.
His Relationship With Gauguin Was Far From Healthy
Gauguin, an established artist then, played a considerable role in Van Gogh’s self-image. Van Gogh tried to build a friendship with him, but it was unhealthy.
There was an unpleasant power dynamic, and Gauguin said ugly things to Van Gogh that, on top of everything else, must have hurt deeply.
PS: Did you know the Sunflowers were made as a gift to Gauguin to brighten up his room for his stay with him in the yellow house?
But a fascinating fact is that Vincent liked the Sunflowers so much. He didn’t want to give them away anymore. Instead, he created two exact copies.
He planned to ship these copies to him after his stay as a thank you, but due to their fight, he never did. Luckily, they remained in the Van Gogh catalog to enjoy.
Theo, His Brother, Supported Him All His Life
And there was the stress of money. Vincent Van Gogh never made a sale, except for one, and that was for a trivial amount only. His art was modern, a style people of his time were not yet ready for. How different do we feel now?
To be able to live and get his supplies, Theo, his brother, supported him financially throughout his career.
Theo was also his best friend, as we know from the letter correspondence he kept. Theo Van Gogh always had the best in mind with his little brother. He believed in him and that one day he would have success.
PS, and that is why we can enjoy so many of his paintings from his catalog. Because most of them were in the possession of Theo in return for his support. Theo’s wife, Jo, made Vincent famous after he and Theo died. She retained an extensive collection, which we can now enjoy in Amsterdam.
But back to the story. When the happy news arrived that Theo and his wife Jo had a newborn baby, Vincent was ecstatic. Especially when he heard the baby would be named after him: Vincent Wilhelm Van Gogh.
He started on his gift for the baby: now one of his most famous paintings: “Almond Blossom.” He paid a lot of attention to it because it was so special. It represents the beginning of new life.
It seemed all so great, but the visit was far from it. The baby was sick when he arrived. There was stress in the house. Theo told Vincent that money would be tighter with the newborn and that he decided to quit his job as an art seller and would start a business on his own.
I can relate to that. Starting a new business is terrific for many things, but not your wallet.
Vincent was not in a good place on many levels.
All this led him to Auvers. Theo made a request and arranged a place for him to stay with a local doctor and amateur painter, Paul Gachet. In him, he found a true friend, a community, and support, which is why Gachet ended up with a lot of Van Gogh’s work because he gifted it to him in return for his hospitality.
At the same time, his mental health had suffered too much for him to recover fully, as we now all know because he would end his life just seven weeks later.
And That Brings Us Back To This Unique Van Gogh Exhibition
Because Vincent Van Gogh unimaginably had his most productive time during the final months in Auvers. Weeks I should say.
On three levels in the building, you have an immersive experience along the extensive collection he created during this time in Auvers. 50 works in total. You’ll also learn the story of his life and work.
Paintings of his beloved village Auvers (just 20 miles North of Paris), the bold and unusually wide landscapes he created, his friendship with Gachet, the paintings from Gauchets house and garden, all to his very last creation: “The Roots,” of which the paint was still wet when they found him shot.
A Guided Tour is Highly Recommended, But Choose Wisely
I was lucky to be on a small-group tour last week (May 16, 2023), just four days after the exhibits opened, led by a fantastic guide named Floor. She was a tutor and guide, taking me and three others around the works. It enriched my experience so much!
The best part was that this tour cost just €5. That is a fantastic deal. And it’s available daily in English and Dutch for this same price.
I highly recommend a guided tour, especially for a price like this. Or to go on a private tour will be more expensive but flexible, and no strangers. A life-guided tour always gives you so much depth and insight compared to a self-guided tour or even an audio tour.
So What Tour To Choose? Spoiler Alert: Not A Tour Company
Many other blogs recommend booking a small group tour with a tour company like Get Your Guide or Tiqets, which is not the best choice.
Let me be the first to say, nothing wrong with these companies. I often use them on my site, for example, to purchase Van Gogh Museum Entrance Tickets (please do so via this link here). Your price is the same as at the door, but you help support me in creating this free content since I get a small commission this way.
In general, they’re great. However, regarding tours, I rarely recommend booking through a tour company, especially not at the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh.
And this is why; bloggers who advise tours via tour companies are either not well informed or want the commission and do not think about the best solution for you.
Usually it is best to book your guide directly at the museum. The quality of the Guide is the same or even better. These guides don’t come just for your tour, as external guides do. But they are employed here, contracted, often for many years, and are also researchers or tutors. Thus, their knowledge is vast.
On my tour with Floor, I was amazed at how well she could answer questions that were not that easy. Two ladies in my group studied Van Gogh and asked detailed questions. Floor answered them all with ease.
External tour companies usually ask for their “small” group tours €100 or more per person, often eight or 12 persons. The Van Gogh Museum charges €5. Yes. That is not a typo. It’s an incredible deal.
The drawback is these tours don’t run often. The English tour for this temporary Van Gogh Exhibit Auvers His Final Months is only given in English at 10:30 am on weekdays and 10:30 am and 1:30 pm on weekends. There is one tour daily in Dutch, only in the afternoon (3 pm on weekdays and 2:15 pm on weekends).
“Unfortunately,” this tour is barely advertised on the website. It’s hard to find. For example, it’s not under the tours section of the main menu. Even inside, I was sent to three places before I could book. That means demand is low. (Which is such a contrast to how the Rijksmuseum advertises their highlight tour). But a good thing for you.
The second great option is to book a private tour directly with the Van Gogh Museum—a guide just for you. You can also bring other people on the tour, but the guide will be exclusively available. No strangers.
Now you might think that sounds expensive. It’s not. For just €95, you can book a guide at a time that suits you. €95 per party, that is, not per person.
Make sure you have tickets and a time slot first (book those here). After you’ve done that, open this link to book a private tour directly with the museum. (ignore the confusing text on the page above the form), just select your group size, date, and time for your tour. On the next screen, ignore the ticket options (leave everything at 0), select “Yes, I would like to complete my order” at the bottom, and check out. The total price should be €95.
My favorite Art At The Van Gogh Auvers His Final Months Exhibition
Oh, this is a difficult one. Van Gogh is magical to me. You instantly recognize his oeuvre. Still, his art is so different. Often busy and sometimes depressing, but there is always this sense of beauty and playfulness.
Here are the five pieces I immediately fell in love with from the display. And since this is personal, I can’t wait for you to see the exhibit yourself, and tell me about your favorite artwork(s) in the comments below.
- The Church in Auvers-sur-Oise
This is the image used in the Van Gogh exhibition poster. And it struck me. The blue sky is intense, and the church is romanticized while still recognizable. And then the person in the front. Was she there? She looks much more like a subject from The Potato Eaters than a French mademoiselle.
- Wheatfield under Thunderclouds
This one captivated me since a young age. I had this in my bedroom at my parent’s house. I saw the sadness and the loneliness but, at the same time, the gorgeous contrasting blue and green—the power of nature and the oddly wide canvas. Still, seeing this painting, my eyes are immediately drawn to it. Thank goodness this is one of the 12 paintings owned by the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and is on permanent display.
- Daubigny’s Garden
When I saw this canvas, I immediately loved it. It was softer, gentler than others. There was something Monet to it. But when Floor started talking about the image, it became even more intriguing. Vincent Van Gogh didn’t plan to make it. He was just there visiting but so taken by the garden’s beauty that he grabbed a kitchen towel from the neighbor’s laundry line and used it as his canvas. She told us if you turn the frame around, you can still see the red stripes of the cloth. Incredible story, and just as incredible, it lasted through time.
- Dr. Paul Gachet
An homage to his friend Dr. Paul Gachet. It was created in Vincent van Gogh’s final days. The sadness drips from the canvas. Gachet, who just lost his wife, and Van Gogh dealing with mental daemons. It all shows. But what also radiates through is Vincent’s affection for his friend, which makes it beautiful to me and one of my favorite paintings in the exhibition.
- Tree Roots
His final masterpiece is the Tree Roots. I would not hang this on a wall in my house. It’s not my taste. But it’s gorgeous in its way.
Did you know they didn’t know for a long time how to hang it since they didn’t know what it was? The result for a long time was that it was displayed upside down.
I see chaos in it. It raises my heartbeat just by looking at it. But it’s beautiful. It’s Van Gogh. And to me, it represents how he felt in his head, chaotic and in disarray.
Maybe even representing (unconsciously) that he was going back to his roots, which would make it spiritual as well. Who knows. But we know the paint was not yet dry when Vincent was found. After this, he only lived two more days before he would die of his wounds.
So there you have it, my favorite five artworks at the “Auvers His Final Months Van Gogh exhibit.” You can see it until September 3, 2023. A regular entrance ticket is valid for both the permanent building and this one.
Tickets are available. But availability on the day itself is rare. Book your tickets ahead of time and choose a timeslot to avoid disappointment.
I hope you’ll consider buying your entrance ticket through this link (via Tiqets) so you can help my website at no extra cost.
I highly recommend going on a guided tour. A guided group tour is available for just €5 (book at the information desk), But English tours are only in the mornings, and it’s first come, first serve. Book the earliest time slot to enter to get your spot.
An alternative is booking a private tour, which is more expensive but more flexible and with no strangers—book directly with the museum. See my instruction earlier in this article on how to do this.
I would only recommend this external tour if the museum does not have capacity.
Do not bring your luggage. Only small and medium-sized lockers are available (free of charge) that can store no more than a normal-sized backpack. Not a trolley or a suitcase.
Plan to spend at least 2-3 hours here so you can explore the artist’s art at your leisure. When I do Itinerary review coaching calls with people, I often see they planned 1-2 hours for their stay. It’s not enough.
You’ll feel rushed. You might get annoyed with other visitors if there is a hold-up in front of the most famous paintings, you have no time to wait. The result is often that you’ll likely miss some of his best pieces at the end.
By that, I mean the collection is on multiple floors, and Van Gogh improved over time. His latest and best paintings are on the top floor. But you start your tour on the bottom floor (as I would recommend doing to get the complete picture). But you might linger too long here. Then you may never see the “Almond Blossom” at the end of the route on the top floor.
Also, do get the multimedia tour with your ticket or buy it separately after you arrive if it’s not included, even if you go on a live guided tour.
It’s not the best audio tour (it’s a bit outdated technology, very limited, not all items have an explanation, and often the information is a little bare). Still, it costs just a few euros, and you get more information than just walking past. So it’s worth it.
Ensure you have a meal or snack before entering, and bring water. A tiny cafe in the atrium is not that great and super expensive. €4 for a can of Coke doesn’t work for me, no matter how much I want to support them. Better spend your money in the gift shop instead (don’t miss the bookstore upstairs, either)
Hopefully, a better restaurant will return, but it’s not there now.
Tip: in the shop, you can purchase an excellent, fully illustrated catalog specific to “Van Gogh in Auvers.” Another great find in their store is the Masterpieces book.
Going to an art exhibition is tiring. If possible, don’t go the following day after you land on a long-haul flight. Give yourself time to rest first. Also, try not “to do” two (or even more) in one day. Especially if you plan to go to one of the big ones, it should be either the Rijksmuseum or the Van Gogh on a single day. If you try to do too much, you most likely will not enjoy the 2nd one as much. It’s just too much to take in.
So there you have it, my honest review of the temporary Van Gogh exhibit Auvers His Last Months and my tips to make the most of your stay. I hope it was inspiring and you’ll have a chance to see this fantastic exhibition.
Are You Going To Visit This Van Gogh Exhibition In Amsterdam?
I’d love to hear your thoughts: What Van Gogh Painting would you like to see yourself? Share your thoughts in the comments below, and let’s start a conversation 💬.
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