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Van Gogh museum reopens with a stunning display of some of the master's greatest works
A visitor in the Van Gogh Museum Amsterdam takes a picture of the famous Dutch painter's self portrait with easel dated from 1888 prior to the reopening of the museum, in Amsterdam on May 1, 2013. According to media information the museum was renovated for several months with more than 10,000 square meters of walls painted and about 2,300 square meters of parquet floor laid. Amsterdam's Van Gogh Museum reopened its doors to the public with a stunning new display of some of the Dutch master's greatest works, completing a trio of renovations of the city's most famous museums. AFP PHOTO / ANP -KOEN VAN WEEL.

By: Jan Hennop

AMSTERDAM (AFP).- Amsterdam's Van Gogh Museum reopened its doors to the public on Wednesday with a stunning new display of some of the Dutch master's greatest works, completing a trio of renovations of the city's most famous museums.

The hanging of Vincent Van Gogh's final 1887-88 "Self-portrait as a painter" moments before reopening to the public was the last task after a seven-month multi-million euro (dollar) facelift.

"From today, visitors will be able to view the new exhibition that displays Van Gogh as if they (visitors) were watching over his shoulder" as he painted, museum director Axel Rueger told AFP.

"It really shows how Van Gogh developed as an artist and visitors can get into the 'nitty-gritty' of his methods in the new exhibition," he said.

The Van Gogh Museum closed its doors for renovations in September last year and some 75 of Van Gogh's works moved to the Hermitage in Amsterdam, where they attracted some 665,000 visitors.

"With the reopening of our museum they've come home," said Rueger.

The exhibition also vaunts its hanging of the museum's own painting from the famous "Sunflowers" series next to one from the same series on loan from London's National Gallery, for the next three months.

Together with a third painting, "Woman rocking a cradle", the arrangement is the one said to be favoured by Van Gogh himself.

Visitors can now study the artist's methods in depth, including by peeping through microscopes at some of his canvasses to examine strokes and paint selections.

"You will be able to see the hidden treasures on some of the paintings, for instance where Van Gogh painted one painting over another," Marije Vellekoop, head of collections, research and presentation told AFP.

Visitors can also see how restorers worked painstakingly for the last eight years to bring the new exhibition to life.

The Van Gogh Museum is located on Amsterdam's historic Museumplein where many other Dutch art treasures like Rembrandt's "Night Watch" can also be found at the recently reopened Rijksmuseum.

The Van Gogh museum features 200 works, 140 by the Dutch master himself and the rest by contemporary painters.

They include other iconic works such as "The bedroom", the "Irises", "The Potato Eaters" and the ominous "Wheatfield with crows."

Some of the early visitors on Wednesday -- the first of some 1.2 million expected over the next year -- were Stellian Ciulacu, 65, and his wife Lucia, 64, from Bucharest.

"It's fantastic that they are back," Stellian Ciulacu said as he scrutinised the newly-hung "Self-portrait", with his wife taking pictures. "I paint as a hobby and can learn so much from this."

"I think Van Gogh's very accessable style is what really appeals to people," added another early-bird enthusiast Tom Rounds, 31, from London.

The new exhibition will also show that Van Gogh "was not some artistic genius that fell from the sky but worked in a tight artistic community" with other post-Impressionist artists including Paul Gauguin and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Rueger said.

The museum features digitised copies of Van Gogh's sketchbooks, showing many of the ideas which later translated into famous paintings.

The Van Gogh Museum is the last of Amsterdam's three major museums to reopen its doors after extensive refurbishments, underlining the Dutch capital's status as a top art destination.

Rueger said renovations totalled some 21 million euros (28 million dollars) which were funded party by the museum and partly by the Dutch state.

Earlier this month Dutch queen Beatrix, now Princess Beatrix, reopened the Rijksmuseum to fanfare and fireworks after a decade of refurbishment, while the Stedelijk modern art museum reopened late last year after a nine-year renovation.

The former queen abdicated Tuesday in favour of her son, Willem-Alexander, and reopening the Rijksmuseum was one of her final jobs as monarch.

"We did not expect queen Beatrix's abdication when we announced the date of own reopening last year. But yes, for us it is of course an added bonus that it was yesterday," Rueger said with a laugh, referring to the almost one million visitors who attended the new king's enthronement.

© 1994-2013 Agence France-Presse

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