The Van Gogh Visit

We need to establish one thing: I’m married to an artist but I’m not an art connoisseur; not by any stretch of the wildest imagination.

I’m not even sure I appreciate art in the way many people do.

And, I know I don’t appreciate it in the same way my wife does.

She could spend hours, days, weeks analyzing works of art for the masterful, technical skill involved in composing the piece. Meanwhile, I’ll take a look, make a glib quip or self-evident observation, and move on to the next. 

Amsterdam is the home of the Van Gogh Museum. Its building is quite impressive and very unique. Inside, over 200 pieces of Vincent van Gogh’s original work are on display. Housed in multiple galleries covering four floors, the museum sees 2 million visitors each year. 

On a solo work trip in November 2017, I had a few extra hours to spare and I found myself in the Museumplein of Amsterdam; an expansive open area covered in a sea of green grass sliced by sidewalks criss-crossing the park and rows of well-manicured trees standing stoically in amusingly straight lines.

On every side of this central park are museums, a concert hall older than every building on the Canadian prairies, and, oddly, a grocery store with its triangle-shaped roof covered in grass. Looking at overhead visuals on Google Earth, you wouldn’t even know the store is there.

Given my wife’s profession and Van Gogh’s historic impact on it, I felt compelled to visit his museum.

Compelled might be understatement. Guilted might be more accurate. Not explicitly though.

When you’re married to an artist and you’ve left her at home with two young kids so you can travel to Europe for work, well, I felt strongly that I should report back on what the museum was like and, at the very least, bring her a souvenir.

I bought my $28 CAD ticket, entered the building, visited every last gallery, viewed each piece of art I could see, and stopped by the gift shop to pick up that souvenir on my way out.

17 minutes after I walked in, I was outta there. 

Her husband had spent a grand total of 17 minutes viewing the collection of one of the most influential artists in modern history.

Of course, when I reported the length of my visit to my wife, she was incredulous. Her husband had spent a grand total of 17 minutes viewing the collection of one of the most influential artists in modern history.

“Are you kidding me? You only spent 17 minutes! I could’ve spent the whole day,” I recall her saying.

“Actually, it was probably closer to 10 minutes; I was third in line at the gift shop,” I replied. 

It’s certainly not that I don’t appreciate art. I do. Glib quips and observations aside, I just express it differently.

Buying my ticket, spending the time (even if only 10 minutes), making sure I saw every painting (even if only for a few seconds), and pausing long enough to snap a few pics (see above) was my way of appreciating the works of the artist.

Taking in the small details and the technical skills just isn’t my style. Never has been. I have always preferred seeing an overall work; the bigger picture; the high-level vision. Getting lost in the weeds — the weeds of anything, not just art — has never been my strength.

But it is a considerable strength of my wife and I promised her that when we travel to Amsterdam together, she can spend the whole day with Van Gogh and I wouldn’t be jealous. I even offered to take care of the gift-shop part of the visit for her.

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  1. Donna

    Gave me several chuckles. ? Love your honesty

  2. Karen

    Your stories are all so on point.
    Love them!! ?

  3. Joanne D

    Van Gough’s art has now come to Edmonton – even if virtually. She can enjoy it this week if she wants – and, you can hang with the kids. ?