Vincent van Gogh, the legendary Dutch master painter known for his masterpieces like "Starry Night" and "Sunflowers", left a permanent mark on the world of art. However, few people are aware of the profound influence Drenthe, a picturesque province in the Netherlands, had on his life and work. In this blog post, we'll explore why a visit to Drenthe is a must for art enthusiast, because it shows you the places where he lived (Hoogeveen and Nieuw-Amsterdam) and the town he was so fond of (Zweeloo). Even though Van Gogh did not visit Assen, there are plenty of reasons not to miss this city, as you can see some of his beautiful paintings here...
Vincent van Gogh (born in the Brabant village of Zundert in 1853) arrived as a thirty year old at the train station of Hoogeveen on the 11th of September in 1883. Here he hoped to find peat landscapes with farmers, but he found a medium-seized city that served as transit port for peat ships. During a couple of weeks he stayed on the attic floor of Logement Hartsuiker, for 1 gulden per night (0,45 Euro), as he wrote in a letter to his brother Theo. He also wrote that he really loved the landscape but that he could not find subjects for his paintings. Therefore he decided to move on to Nieuw-Amsterdam, looking for a better workspace and enough subjects to sketch and paint.
As a reminder of Van Gogh's stay in Hoogeveen, a 20 meter-high mural has been created by De Strakke Hand in the middle of the city center.
Van Gogh found a source of inspiration in the area around Nieuw-Amsterdam and Veenoord. Its vast peatlands and serene moors, where hardworking farming families lived, were a canvas of endless possibilities for him. During two months he lived and worked in a room of Logement Scholte (some sort of an inn during that time). Here he evolved as an artist while he experimented with different techniques and styles.
Step into his shoes as you explore the restored house and gain insights into his life at Van Gogh Huis Drenthe.
Again the artists of De Strakke Hand worked their magic on two murals, but this time in Nieuw-Amsterdam on both sides of a former silo. On one side you see the famous watercolour painting De Ophaalbrug (the drawbridge) which he painted just a few kilometers from here, and on the other side you will find a portret of Van Gogh himself.
On the first day of November in 1883 Van Gogh decided to go on a day trip to Zweeloo as the village was known for the many artists who worked there. He hoped to meet the German art painter Max Liebermann, but it turned out that all artists (including Liebermann) only stayed here during the warmer months of the year. Afterwards he wrote in a letter to his brother Theo that he thought the village was so beautiful with its moss roofs, stables and barns.
Before he went home he made several sketches like for example "Apple orchard with linden tree" and "Shepherd with flock at a church". The small church from the second half of the 13th century still exists and is located on the edge of the village.
As mentioned earlier, Van Gogh has not been in Assen, but it's highly recommended to not miss this city, especially because of the Drents Museum. For the reason that its permanent collection has two of his paintings which he made in Drenthe, De Turfschuit (The peat barge) and Onkruid verbrandende boer (Weed burning farmer). The latter can be seen alternately at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and at the Drents Museum in Assen, as the two museums bought this work together.
But the most important reason to go to Assen is to visit the exhibition Op Reis met Vincent (Travelling with Vincent) which runs from 11 September 2023 until 7 January 2024 at the Drents Museum. It is very exceptional that 140 years after his arrival in Drenthe, as many works as possible from his Drenthe oeuvre can be seen together for the first time.
The water colour painting Landschap met een boerderij (Landscape with farm) is a rarely seen work, as it has been in the private collection of a Canadian family for more than 40 years.
In addition to the original artworks there is also a huge audiovisual room in which it seems as if you are standing right in the middle of his paintings.
Canvas under the left arm, hat in the right hand and easel on the back; Van Gogh seems ready for a new day of exploring the province's natural beauty. This statue (by Blow-Up Industry) of more than 4 meters high can be seen throughout the period of the exhibition at the end of the canal in Assen.
Another temporary initiative is the 2.2 km Van Gogh City Experience walking route. Contemporary artist have been inspired by Van Gogh's work and given it a modern twist. Along the route you will pass life-seize murals on buildings, unique art objects on public squares and window drawings like this one by Vincent Brons.
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