The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam is one of the world’s great museums, but it was largely closed for ten years until 2013. Planned extension and refurbishment hit a number of unexpected snags, but the new Rijksmuseum has been greeted with universal praise. Much extra space has been quarried from within the footprint of the 1885 building, and while some of the original decoration has been revealed and restored, the latest museum technology has been adopted and the artworks are beautifully lit. Paintings, sculpture, drawings, tapestries, ceramics, gold and silver – the whole gamut of fine and decorative arts are on display, often in meaningful juxtaposition.
Though the gallery has the finest collection by far of the Dutch Golden Age (the seventeenth century, the age of Rembrandt and Vermeer), it has much else besides, and significant international collections as well. There are two visits to the museum, and Amsterdam’s other main galleries and historic buildings are included as well as city centre walks through the enchanting streetscape and beside the canals.
To enlarge upon the theme, two key galleries in other towns are visited. The Frans Hals Museum in Haarlem, housed in the almshouse where the eponymous artist spent his last years, provides a perfect introduction to Golden Age art, while the paintings in the Mauritshuis, also benefitting from brilliant re-display, form one of the richest small collections anywhere.
Fly at c. 12.00 midday (British Airways) from London Heathrow to Amsterdam. Haarlem was the chief artistic centre in the northern Netherlands in the 16th century and home of the first of the great masters of the Golden Age, Frans Hals, whose finest works are in the excellent small museum here. Drive to Amsterdam, where all three nights are spent
With its concentric rings of canals and 17th-century merchants’ mansions, Amsterdam is one of the loveliest capitals in the world. Our first visit to the brilliantly refurbished Rijksmuseum concentrates on Rembrandt, Vermeer and their contemporaries. In the afternoon walk to Museum Van Loon, a private residence built in 1672, and to the house where Rembrandt lived and worked for nearly 20 years. Walk back to the hotel through some of Amsterdam’s most attractive streets.
Visit the Hermitage, followed by the Royal Palace, formerly the town hall, decorated by the leading Dutch painters of the 17th century (subject to closure for royal functions). Return to the Rijksmuseum for a second visit. There is some free time to visit two other major art museums nearby which have also recently been refurbished and extended, the Van Gogh Museum and the Stedelijk Museum of modern and contemporary art.
Opened in June 2014 after long closure for refurbishment, the Mauritshuis at The Hague ‘looks set to become northern Europe’s most alluring small museum’ (Jackie Wullschlager, Financial Times). The superb collection of paintings includes masterpieces by Rembrandt and Vermeer. The Gemeentemuseum has 19th-century Hague School paintings, the realist milieu from which Van Gogh emerged, and works by the pioneer abstractionist Mondriaan. Fly from Amsterdam and return to London Heathrow at c. 6.00pm.
We sometimes change the visits on this itinerary to take advantage of temporary exhibitions.
Dr Sophie Oosterwijk
Researcher and lecturer with degrees in Art History, Mediaeval Studies and English Literature. She is an expert on the Middle Ages, Netherlandish and Dutch art, with a special interest in portraiture, death and commemoration. She has taught at the universities of Leicester, Manchester and St Andrews, and regularly lectures at Cambridge. She is a former editor of the journal Church Monuments and has published widely, including edited volumes on fourteenth-century sculpture and on the late-mediaeval Dance of Death.
Price – per person
Two sharing: £1,910 or £1,770 without flights. Single occupancy: £2,210 or £2,070 without flights.
This includes: flights (Euro Traveller) with British Airways (Airbus 320); hotel accommodation; travel by private coach; breakfasts and 3 dinners with wine, water, coffee; all admissions; all tips; all taxes; the services of the lecturer.
Hotel Estheréa, Amsterdam, a centrally located 4-star hotel in a historic building with colourful, comfortable rooms. Single rooms are doubles for sole use.
There is quite a lot of walking and standing in museums, and the tour would not be suitable for anyone with difficulties with everyday walking. Average distance by coach per day: 23 miles.
Between 10 and 20 participants.
Before booking, please refer to the FCO website to ensure you are happy with the travel advice for the destination(s) you are visiting: www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
'This was a well planned and carefully paced tour.'
'Both the lecturer and tour manager were extremely good and excellent company.'
'Martin Randall at it’s best. Every aspect of this tour was excellent.'
'A well thought through itinerary, bringing together a coherent and detailed picture through art, architecture and personal histories of painters, patrons and people of Amsterdam during the Golden Age.'