The Rembrandt Lover’s Guide: AmsterdamBy Suzi Malin
If you’re breathless after the Rembrandt exhibition at the National Galley, which you can read about here, then take our Rembrandt Lovers’ Guide to Amsterdam to get the most out of this amazing city in art and adventure. Here’s how to explore the artists’ hometown in style:
Rembrandt Lover’s Amsterdam: What to Visit
#1 Visit: The Rijkmuseum
What: The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam is home to the most impressive collection of Rembrandt’s work; a museum dedicated to ‘the Dutchness of Dutchness’. After a ten-year wait, and at a cost of €375 million euros, the magnificent restoration of the Rijksmuseum finished in July and re-opened to the public.
Don’t Miss: The Night Watch
Why: Painted when Rembrandt was 30, the Night Watch is the painting that secured his reputation for posterity. However, from the moment the Night Watch was completed, Rembrandt’s fortune changed. Saskia, his wife, died and Rembrandt virtually stopped painting and focused on his etching. The Night Watch is especially important in the history of the artist’s creative life; it is the culmination of his early artistic brilliance – as Rembrandt was never trouble free and completely happy again. The Night Watch is housed in the Gallery of Honour and holds the collections most famous paintings.
Where: Rijksmuseum, Museumstraat 1, Amsterdam
Tickets: You can buy tickets online here. It is advised to go weekdays – first thing in the morning or between 3-5 pm. The ticket can be used anytime and cost £12.80 with no concessions for the over 65’s or students.
#2 Visit: The Rembrandt House
What: This is the house that Rembrandt bought early in his marriage – in the hope of elevating and belonging to the social elite. It was in the Jewish quarter where he found many sitters amongst his neighbours. Sadly, he went bancrupt in 1665 and was forced to sell his house and move to a poorer neighbourhood. He never again lived in this lifestyle.
Why: The house, now a museum, has a guide to explain the artist’s innovative etching techniques (see above) on original 17th century etching presses. The museum holds a virtually complete collection of Rembrandt’s etchings.
Don’t Miss: In his art studio, suffused with the most perfect lighting, we see Rembrandt’s pigments, lapis lazuli and cinnabar – and the huge stone for grinding and oils and resins for glazing. His oil paint was often mixed with egg, sand and glass to thicken it. The palette knife had been used to mixed paint until now (see above The Jewish Bride) – Rembrandt was the first to paint with it.
The Magic: You cannot help but feel a sense of history and magic in the room; the room is filled with the ghost of his genius and the site of the early creations.
Where: Rembrandthuis, Jodenbreestraat 4-6, 1011 Amsterdam
Tickets: Available here. Open 10-6pm daily – admission £10.
#3 Visit: The Mauritshuis, The Hague
What: This brilliant museum, made up of 16 rooms on two floors, next to the Dutch Parliament buildings, fronts onto a man-made lake. A former palace, it has been renovated as part of a 5-year plan and €30 million redevelopment programme, without losing any of its character.
Why: This small beautiful museum has the highest masterpiece quotient of any gallery in the world. It can be enjoyed both for its Rembrandt paintings (Two Moors and Homer are on display here) and its beautiful collection of 17th century Dutch interiors.
Don’t Miss: The Anatomy Lesson housed here, painted when Rembrandt was only 25, was a major landmark in his career. The painting hails the artist’s genius, with its innovation and the way in which the surgeons are brought to life. Whilst you are there, see three Vermeers in the Mauritshuis including The Girl with the Pearl Earring and also the painting, The Goldfinch, the inspiration for the Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Donna Tartt of the same name. Buy a city pass and explore the Hague at leisure here.
Where: Mauritshuis Plein 29, 2511 CS Den Haag
Tickets: Available here. Admission £11, open 10am-6pm, 8pm on Thursdays.
Rembrandt Lover’s Amsterdam: The Conclusion
If you’ve got time, also visit the Van Gogh Museum, which has also opened after restoration and is a stone’s throw from the Rijkmuseum. Amsterdam is the place to go for Rembrandt lovers; it is with some amazement that I quote Damien Hirst who once said: ‘Anyone can be a Rembrandt’.
We say: go to the Rembrandt exhibition at the National Gallery then visit the artist’s homeland. It will help you understand that only Rembrandt can be Rembrandt. In the words of the man himself: ‘a painting is complete when it has the shadows of a god’.
His gift, his magic, was beyond compare because he was able to reach ‘beyond’. Go to Amsterdam. Prepare to be blown away.