Who was Vincent van Gogh?Vincent van Gogh is one of the most famous post-Impressionist artists in the world! He was born in Groot-Zundert in the southern Netherlands in 1853 and grew up in a middle-class family. As an adult, he worked as an art dealer in The Hague, a substitute teacher in England, a minister’s assistant, and a missionary, while developing his skill in sketching and painting. After a restless youth and several love affairs that ended unhappily, Van Gogh began to pursue his artistic career with greater dedication. He had particularly creative periods in Nuenen, where he painted the local peasants and workers, and in Arles, where he produced over 200 paintings and 100 other sketches, drawings, and watercolors in bright, striking colors. While in Arles, he had a kind of breakdown, which resulted in him severing his ear with a razor. He was taken to hospital, where he was cared for off and on for the next month before moving to the Saint-Paul-de-Mausole asylum in Saint-Rémy. He lived and worked in the asylum for about a year, producing some of his finest pieces, including The Starry Night, before moving to Auvers-sur-Oise, a suburb of Paris. This move was an attempt to be closer to Dr. Paul Gachet and his brother Theo, but his letters from this period also describe his “sadness and extreme loneliness”. In July 1890, Vincent van Gogh shot himself in the chest with a revolver, dying 30 hours later with his brother by his side, aged only 37. Many have tried to diagnose Van Gogh’s mental illness since his death, but it's generally agreed that, whatever his condition, his mental health deeply impacted his work - providing inspiration for some of his most emotional works but also preventing him from working during certain periods and causing him extreme distress. Van Gogh’s fame began to grow slowly after his death, picking up pace after a retrospective in Paris in 1901, and again after his letters were published in 1914. Films, books, and television series about the artist and his work have ensured that today Van Gogh is a household name, giving him the recognition he never received within his lifetime.
What can I see inside the Van Gogh Museum?The Van Gogh Museum has a permanent collection that features Van Gogh’s masterpieces, plus letters, sketches, and other personal items that help us piece together his story and artistic development. It features extremely well-known works, like Sunflowers and The Potato Eaters as well as some of his quieter, more obscure pieces. Temporary exhibitions change throughout the year but tend to feature the works of an artist who either inspired or was inspired by Van Gogh.
Has there ever been any art stolen from the Van Gogh Museum?Yes! In fact, in 1991 the museum fell victim to what is considered one of the largest art heists in the Netherlands since World War II, and also one of the quickest recoveries of stolen art. The crime took place before dawn on April 14, 1991, when 20 paintings, including The Bedroom, The Sower, and The Potato Eaters, were stolen by a group of four men. Museum guards who disturbed the thieves were made to turn off the security system but immediately called the police after the thieves left with their loot. Less than an hour later, an abandoned car was discovered containing all 20 of the paintings, which were quickly returned. It turned out that the second getaway vehicle had a flat tire, and the thieves panicked when it didn’t show up. Sadly, three of the paintings were badly damaged during their short adventure, but the four thieves, who included a security guard and an ex-employee of the museum’s security firm, were given prison sentences. There was another heist in 2002 when two thieves climbed onto the roof of the museum and broke in, stealing View of the Sea at Scheveningen and Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen. Those paintings were lost until 2016, with the FBI listing it on their top 10 list of art crimes. They were seized by Italian police in Naples during an investigation into a gang of drug traffickers and returned to the museum, where they underwent restoration before being returned to display. Needless to say, the museum’s improved its security considerably since the thefts.
How long does it take to visit the Van Gogh Museum?Most visitors spend around two to three hours exploring the exhibits, but your ticket doesn’t include a time limit. If you’d like to spend a whole hour gazing at a single painting, then that’s fine! There’s also a café if you’d like to stop for lunch or a quick snack before continuing your tour.
Can I take photographs inside the museum?You can take photographs at certain designated points of the museum, and only without using flash, tripods, or other photographic equipment. You aren’t allowed to take photographs of the artwork on display, but the museum provides many downloadable images on their website, so you can still reference them later. Guided tours take about 50 minutes before leaving you to explore the gallery by yourself. Drawing or painting inside the museum is also not allowed except with the express permission of the museum staff.
Will children enjoy a trip to the museum?The museum does its best to appeal to visitors of all ages, with a large range of special activities designed for children aged 6 to 12 in particular. There’s a special family multimedia guide available in English and Dutch, and every weekend there are workshops for kids aged 6 to 12. These cost €7.50 per child, which covers a short tour, materials for the workshop, and a soft drink. Participants will be given an apron to wear, but parents should note that things could still get a bit messy. For a more engaging visit, families can also pick up Vincent’s Traveling Case for free from the Information Desk, which is filled with fun assignments and activities that families can enjoy while exploring the museum. The traveling case is available in Dutch and English, but if copies run out then families can also pick up free treasure hunt sheets from the Information Desk in English, Dutch, French, German, Italian and Spanish. On weekends, you can also book a birthday party for your little artists, with packages including a private art workshop and soft drinks, and you can either bring your own birthday cake or ask the museum to provide one. The fun also doesn’t have to stop when your vacation is over! When you’re back home, why not print some of the coloring pages available on the museum’s website? Strollers and pushchairs are allowed inside the museum and parents should keep an eye on children to ensure they don’t touch any of the exhibits.