I have visited the Rijksmuseum previously but have had to put up with what seemed like a never-ending renovation. The good news is that the renovation has been completed. The great news is that it has provided a brilliant update to a gorgeous building and has certainly enhanced one of the world's great museums. (To be fair, the Rijksmuseum is part museum and large part art gallery.)
I suspect for most people the highlight of the Rijksmuseum is its extensive Rembrandt collection, with the focal point being "The Night Watch", a magificent, large painting staggering in its detail and life. The gallery leading towards this painting now houses a collection of Dutch art from before and during Rembrandt's time. In particular, there is a fine collection of works by Franz Hals. I have previously visited the Franz Hals museum in Haarlem, but there is no way there to compare Hals' work with that of others. The display at the Rijksmuseum left me questioning whether Hals wasn't every bit as great and influential an artist as Rembrandt. The Hals display includes one of the most stunningly beautiful still life paintings, extraordinary in its detail and use of both light and reflection, probably the first wedding portrait of its era to include husband and wife in the one work, and several 'character' paintings where the people are so life-like and vivacious that you could almost talk to them.
The museum goes well beyond Dutch art however. Displays cover the Dutch colonies of Batavia and Surinam, glass, ceramic and silverware of the 15th to 17th centuries, and an art nouveau section (though beware - the museum map suggests there's an Yves St Laurent section. It consists of one dress only, based on art by Mondrian).
Displays that particularly took my eye included a striped concentration camp coat, clearly identifying the wearer as Jewish, worn by a Dutch woman who survived four concentration camps including Auschwitz (where, sadly, her parents were murdered). This was adjacent to a Nazi chess set, allegedly presented to one of the regime's leaders, which was hardly shy in setting out the Nazi agenda. Pieces were in the shapes of Stukas, bombs, panzers and Wehrmacht troops.
I was also taken by a sculpture done by a Japanese artist in the 1960s during the era of opposition to the Vietnam war. It represented a human-sized figure whose head morphed into a Buck Rogers' style cannon. Its posture was overbearing and threatening. The sculpture is entitled 'Made in America' and it seemed even more pointed today than when it was made, given the many mass murders committed in the USA which have been expedited by that society's obscene attachment to unfettered availability of high powered weaponry.
The museum also features furniture and tapestries, maritime models and extraordinary, large dolls houses which were not for children but were the hobby of very well-to-do ladies in Amsterdam (especially) when Holland was one of the World's major trading powers. The detail in these dolls houses is simply amazing.
We spent a complete day in the Rijksmuseum and could, if time allowed, easily have spent longer. Admission was 15 euros each, which we felt was great value. The museum is a 'must see' when you visit Amsterdam.
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