Vincent van Gogh and Rembrandt van Rijn were two of the Dutch masters who spent part of their lives in Amsterdam. While there was over 200 years between their time in city, there is a clear connection between the two artists. How exactly is what you can discover at Van Gogh & Rembrandt in Amsterdam.

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Van Gogh & Rembrandt in Amsterdam
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Van Gogh & Rembrandt in Amsterdam

What connects Rembrandt and Van Gogh?

Rembrandt and Van Gogh are connected to each other through their art and the time they spent in the city of Amsterdam. Both attended church services in the Noorderkerk, though they did so in wildly different times. Rembrandt lived in Amsterdam during the city’s golden age, while Van Gogh was here in the late 19th century.

In the 17th century, the population of Amsterdam increased immensely. To create housing for this new population, the city built its now famous canal belt and other surrounding districts. The wealthy citizens took residence along the Prinsengracht, Keizersgracht and Herengracht, while the workers lived in the Jordaan.

More inhabitants meant that not only were more houses needed but also more churches. The affluent Amsterdammers went to the Westerkerk, while the workers went to the Noorderkerk. When Rembrandt moved to Amsterdam at the end of 1631, only part of the city’s new districts and canals had been built. By then the Noorderkerk had been open for 7 years, while the Westerkerk had only opened that summer.

Almost 250 years later, in 1877, Van Gogh moved to Amsterdam as he followed his desire to become a preacher. This time in the city’s history is often referred to as its second Golden Age. Between the two ages the city had gone through economic decline but when the artists lived in the city, there was wide spread prosperity.

How do we know Van Gogh was inspired by Rembrandt?

There are two clear ways which show us that Vincent van Gogh became inspired by Rembrandt van Rijn:

  • Some of Van Gogh’s artwork clearly references works by Rembrandt,
  • In the countless letters Van Gogh wrote to his brother Theo, he mentioned Rembrandt over 100 times.

Van Gogh even thought of Rembrandt when he attended sermons in the Noorderkerk:

It’s raining today, and I had a long walk to the Noorderkerk. In the church, I saw this little old woman. She reminded me so much of that etching by Rembrandt, a woman has been reading the Bible and has fallen asleep.

And he wanted to recreate the setting in which Rembrandt created his works:

There are three windows in my studio. They provide far too much light. Compare a modern window with one from Rembrandt’s time. In those days, everyone had a sort of need for a curious dimmed light. It doesn’t seem to exist anymore. You’ll see now that I can cover over one or two windows completely and thus have one general light that will make the effect on my paintings stronger.

These references, both in art and writing, can be seen and heard in the Noorderkerk at Van Gogh & Rembrandt in Amsterdam.

Old Woman Sleeping, Rembrandt van Rijn, c. 1636

Explore Amsterdam through the eyes of artists

A visit to the Noorderkerk and the immersive son-et-lumière show there is one of many ways you can see the city through the eyes of the famous Dutch masters. If you want to see more of the city, you can combine your visit to the immersive show with another activity in the city. For instance with a canal cruise, so that you can cruise through the canals that were built during Rembrandt’s time.

If you want to explore the city sights along the way than you can combine your visit with tickets to the City Sightseeing bus or boat. Both have stops near the church as well as near other great sights and attractions in the city. For instance, there are stops near the National Maritime Museum, the Albert Cuyp Market, Museum Square and more.

But of course, you can also combine your visit to the show with a visit to some of the best museums in Amsterdam. You can read all of Van Gogh’s letters and see a wealth of his works at the Van Gogh Museum. Or you can visit the Rijksmuseum and see many of Rembrandt’s works, including the Jewish Bride, which Van Gogh also saw there.