Travel

Kröller Müller vs the Van Gogh Museum

Art-lovers anxious to get their fix of Van Gogh should bypass the popular Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, with its overcrowded rooms and long lines, and head instead to the fascinating Kröller-Müller Museum, located in the heart of Hoge Veluwe National Park in the eastern Netherlands. Here you’ll find an extensive collection of the great man’s work in an idyllic rural setting of woodland, heathland, grassy plains, and sand drifts.

This fine, isolated museum is named after Helene Kröller-Müller, a 20th-century art enthusiast who built up a large collection of works, including many Van Gogh paintings, with the support of her wealthy industrialist husband.

But when his business was hit hard during the Great Depression, Helene feared for the future of her collection, and in 1935 she gave all 11,500 pieces to the Dutch state on the condition that a museum be built to house them. Her wish was granted, and in 1938 the Kröller-Müller Museum opened on the family estate at Hoge Veluwe.

Helene’s favorite artist was Van Gogh, who she believed “created modern Expressionism.” She purchased 91 of his paintings and 175 drawings, and, while this is less than half the number owned by the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, it represents a more digestible helping for one visit.

Look out for the arresting Self Portrait of 1887, in which the artist’s face emerges from a thunderous, swirling background and seems to stare right at you, and Four Cut Sunflowers, with its fiery yellow petals that appear to flicker on the canvas.

The paint has been applied so thickly in The Sower (1888) and Country Road in Provence by Night (1890) that the works have a shimmering quality, the energy from the bright stars and the sun somehow radiating far beyond the edges of the canvases.

The famous piece Café Terrace at Night (1888) is also on display. Some critics believe this is part of a trilogy that includes Starry Night (1889) and Starry Night Over the Rhone (1888), both of which are exhibited elsewhere.

The build-up

The Van Gogh Museum boasts the largest collection of the artist’s work in the world and offers visitors the chance to compare his style to that of other 19th-century artists, including Toulouse-Lautrec, Gauguin, and Seurat. It is conveniently located close to the Rijksmuseum on Museumplein (Museum Square) in Amsterdam, which has an extensive collection of the work of other Dutch masters.

The letdown

The temptation to view so many great works of art all together can be irresistible. But how much can the brain absorb at one viewing, especially when you’re vying for viewing space with so many visitors? Nearly 2 million people visit the museum every year.

Going anyway?

Amsterdam is undoubtedly one of the most popular and interesting cities in Europe, and its museums are renowned the world over. The Van Gogh Museum has a very good English-language website that is essential reading if you wish to make the most of your visit. It is better to visit off-season and at either end of the day (particularly at opening time) to avoid the worst of the crowds

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