8 Essential Artworks You Must See in Amsterdam

Rembrandt van Rijn: The Night's Watch, 1642  | © WikiCommons / the Rijksmuseum
Rembrandt van Rijn: The Night's Watch, 1642 | © WikiCommons / the Rijksmuseum
Photo of Tom Coggins
20 June 2018

Amsterdam is famed for its world leading museums which possess thousands of important artworks created by Dutch and international artists — making the city a paradise for art lovers. These masterpieces include artwork from figures that have helped shape the history art, including Vermeer, Rembrandt and Van Gogh.

The Meagre Company, Frans Hals (1637) | Rijksmuseum

For The Meagre Company, Frans Hals strayed from his native Haarlem and agreed to paint a militia based in Amsterdam. Although Hals never finished the work — due to his dislike of commuting — it is still considered one of his finest artworks and contains all the flourishes associated with his iconic, group portraiture. Today it is owned by the Amsterdam Museum and is on permanent display at the Rijksmuseum.

Frans Hal: The Meagre Company | © WikiCommons / the Rijksmuseum

Self-Portrait, Rembrandt van Rijn (1628) | Rijksmuseum

Rembrandt was among the first artists to systematically document his own life through pantings and amassed a large collection of self-portraits, many of which were never sold or even intended to appear on the market. Unlike commissioned pieces, where an artist was expected to depict their subject in a positive light, Rembrandt was free to paint himself as he desired and in 1628 created this self-portrait in which he stares intently upon his audience, veiled behind a thin layer of shadows.

Rembrandt van Rijn: Self-Portrait, 1628 | © WikiCommons / The Rijksmuseum

The Night Watch, Rembrandt van Rijn (1642) | Rijksmuseum

Rembrandt’s The Night Watch is probably the most famous work ever painted by a Dutch artist and has been part of the Rijksmuseum’s collection since 1885. The painting depicts Amsterdam’s civic guard as they prepare to set out on their nightly patrol and was actually commissioned by its subjects. With The Night Watch, Rembrandt perfected his ability to contrast light with shadow, creating a highly engaging survey that pays significant attention to each of its individual subjects.

Rembrandt van Rijn: The Night’s Watch, 1642 | © WikiCommons / the Rijksmuseum

The Milkmaid, Johannes Vermeer (1658) | Rijksmuseum

Johannes Vermeer’s masterpiece, The Milkmaid, has influenced countless artists and successfully turned classical portraiture into a critical device. Vermeer was fascinated by household work and regularly painted servants engaged with domestic chores in order to draw attention to the hierarchal social systems of his time. With The Milkmaid, Vermeer employed a vivid palette to depict a relatively unremarkable scene centred around a maid preparing a meal for her employers or household.

The Milkmaid, Johannes Vermeer | © Google Art Project/WikiCommons

Morning Ride on the Beach, Anton Mauve (1876) | Rijksmuseum

Before Van Gogh revolutionised impressionism, Anton Mauve was the principal Dutch artist associated with the movement and was famed for his realistic yet colourful portrayals of the countryside, animals and outdoor settings. With Morning Ride on the Beach, Mauve created an honest depiction of bourgeois riders enjoying their leisure time amidst a landscape traditionally tied to the peasantry — the shoreline at Scheveningen beach near Den Haag.

Anton Mauve: Morning Ride on the Beach, 1876 | © WikiCommons / the Rijksmuseum

The Potato Eaters, Vincent Van Gogh (1885) | The Van Gogh Museum

In 1885, Vincent Van Gogh set out to create a truthful depiction of peasant life in the Netherlands and began making preliminary sketches of a group of farmers eating a meagre meal in their communal home. Although this realistic portrayal of the lower class was deliberately forthright, it was still loaded with imagery and Van Gogh was determined to capture the coarseness of his subject’s rural background.

Vincent Van Gogh: The Potato Eaters, 1885 | © WikiCommons

Almond Blossoms, Vincent van Gogh (1888) | The Van Gogh Museum

During his final years, Vincent van Gogh successfully integrated his main influences into one coherent style. With Almond Blossoms, he effortlessly combined gestures drawn from French impressionism and Japanese woodcuts with his personal love of flowering plants and natural scenography, creating a wonderfully simple yet elegant painting that can be interpreted from several angles.

Vincent van Gogh: Almond Blossoms, 1888 | © WikiCommons / The Van Gogh Museum

Red and Blue Chair, Gerrit Reitveld (1917) | The Stedelijk Museum

While, strictly speaking, Red and Blue Chair is actually a design item, its influence on art cannot be overstated. Originally, Gerrit Reitveld constructed the chair from unpainted beech wood, but under the guidance of Bart van der Leck, a prominent architect working with de Stijl, decided to decorate it according to the movement’s artistic principles. This led to the most iconic three-dimensional object associated with de Stijl.

Gerrit Rietveld: Red and Blue Chair, 1925 | © Rainer Zenz / WikiCommons

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