AMSTERDAM - With the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam closed for renovations until April, the world's second-largest collection of the tortured Dutch master's work is stepping into the limelight.
The Kroeller-Mueller museum in the eastern Netherlands is lesser-known but still considered a jewel among connoisseurs. It has revamped the layout of its central rooms, giving more space and more focus to its very best works.
This week it is announcing "Vincent is Back," because after a time in which some of its 91 Vincent Van Gogh paintings, 180 drawings and other works have been on loan, they are set to return in style.
The museum has already opened "Native Soil," the first of a two-part exhibition looking at the spectacular changes that Van Gogh underwent in his artistic career, which took place almost entirely in the decade from 1880 to 1890. The appropriately wintery exhibit focuses on Van Gogh's formative years in the Netherlands, with a dark palette and simple, sombre subjects.
"Native Soil" culminates in what is widely regarded as Van Gogh's first great masterpiece, the 1885 "Potato Eaters." It also shows smaller works that presage the colorful brilliance to come, such as the 1885 "Head of a Woman Wearing a White Hat," which may have been part of Van Gogh's preparations for "Potato Eaters," and the emotive 1882 study "Sorrowful Old Man" in black chalk.
Beginning in April, the "Land of Light" exhibition will show off the incredible range of colour and energy in Van Gogh's late works. Much of the collection from both periods will remain on display throughout the year, including later jewels such as his 1888 "Terrace of a Cafe at Night." Also remaining on display is a series of excellent portraits, including a famous 1887 self-portrait, and others such as the 1889 "Portrait of Joseph Roulin."
Although the Kroeller-Mueller Museum is profiling its Van Gogh works, its collection ranges well beyond that with important paintings by Georges Seurat, Pablo Picasso, Fernand Leger, Piet Mondrian and Giorgio de Chirico. It also features one of Europe's best sculpture gardens, with works by Auguste Rodin, Henry Moore, Niki de Saint Phalle and many others.
The museum is located in Otterlo, Netherlands, not far from the German border.
For the more adventurous, one of the museum's special attractions is the option to begin a visit at one of three park entrances rather than the museum itself. It's easy to borrow one of hundreds of free bicycles and cycle several kilometres (miles) on well-marked paths through the park's gentle dunes and pine trees to the museum.
On the Net: http://www.kmm.nl