May 1st was a beautiful day in Amsterdam this year. I had a few free hours at the beginning of a short but busy business trip and as in many cases I looked for opportunities to visit art museums and galleries. With the city waking up after the Dutch national day which is celebrated each year on April 30 with a big party in the streets, and with the Rijksmuseum in eternal renovation the best choice seemed to be the ‘Picasso in Paris’ show at the  Van Gogh Museum.

(video source atVanGoghMuseum)

The exhibition is realized in collaboration with the Picasso Museum in Barcelona and marks with paintings, photographs and documents the first seven years spent by Picasso in Paris, since his first arrival here in 1900 until 1907. His first stay in Paris lasted only a few months, he was 19 and spoke no word of French. He spent most of his time in museums absorbing the art of the masters as well as of the Impressionist and contemporary artists. A short stay in Barcelona was followed by the return to Paris and the suicide of his good friend Carles Casagemas in 1901. This was the start of the darker mood ‘Blue’ period. It was also a time of social integration, with Picasso befriending Max Jacob, becoming a regular of the cabarets in Montmartre, and settling his studio in the dilapidated building of Bateau Lavoir.

source http://www.vangoghmuseum.nl/vgm/

With the change in mood came also the diversification of style and themes. The Montmartre typology and clowns entered his universe, to remain here for the next seventy years of his artistic career.

source online.wsj.com

By 1907 the first big step of his artistic evolution was completed. In the last works in the exhibition we can see Picasso starting to experiment with the decomposition of forms and the geometrical patterns that will become the building blocks of the cubist revolution. In an ideal world of arts this exhibition should have ended with the painting that symbolizes the birth of modern art – Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. Unfortunately the Van Gogh Museum could not get it from MoMA, but we can imagine it in a virtual last room in our imagination.

I then spent another couple of hours in the museum, visiting together with one of my American colleagues the Van Gogh collection. The museum underwent a serious renovation since I first visited it around 1994, and although the structure of the Van Gogh collection is basically the same (his decade of creation divided in periods according to the place and years, works of art that surrounded him in his time), the exhibition space and visiting conditions are much more better than the ones I remembered. The museum which was surprisingly crowded for an out-of-season afternoon is a mandatory visit for any Van Gogh fan. Out in the still sunny daylight I photographed some trees with Van Gogh yellow colored flowers.

source http://www.chagall.nl/

On the way back to the hotel we walked Spiegelgracht which seems to be a street of art galleries and old books shops. Our attention was drawn by the Wuyt Gallery at number 32 of the street, which gathers and sells certified graphic art by Mark Chagall.

source http://www.chagall.nl/

Especially beautiful are the lithographic designs of the windows representing the 12 tribes of Israel that can be found in the Synagogue at the Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem. Watch some of the series in the Web site of the gallery at http://www.chagall.nl/.

source http://www.jhm.nl/current/exhibitions/romania

One last exhibition I will mention will open however only in a few weeks. The name of the exhibition is  From Dada to Surrealism: Jewish Avant-Garde Artists from Romania, 1910-1938 and is hosted by the Jewish Historical Museum (which is located close to the hotel I have stayed at in Amsterdam). The exhibition will do hopefully a long waited reparation reminding that Romania was one of the important centers of the artistic avant-garde in the period between the two world wars, and that many of its most renowned artists (Tzara, Janco, Brauner, Maxy) were Jewish, and that they were fighting not only to promote their art but also to express their identities in the complex and in many instances hostile environment of the period. The exhibition will also open in December at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, until them some details can be found at  http://www.jhm.nl/current/exhibitions/romania.