A challenge at the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

Visiting Amsterdam is going to be a delight the next few months. At the Hermitage Amsterdam, there is an exhibition of Spanish paintings. The Rijksmuseum and the Vincent van Gogh museum will open at least two interesting exhibitions this month. Their permanent collection can of course be visited any time. But … what if you’d like something more challenging …

How about drawing? Or to be more precise: why not draw at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam? Especially on Saturdays, when the Amsterdam Rijksmuseum organises a special tour: their drawing tour or teekentoer!

RM 2The tour takes place several times each Saturday. Its guides are artist-teachers working at the Rijksmuseum’s “Teekenschool”. This drawing school, “teekenen” being old-fashioned Dutch for drawing, resides in a building designed by the museum’s architect Cuypers. The school offers courses in drawing, painting and photography, while taking inspiration from the great works of art next door.

It’s no use signing up for the school’s many courses and classes, if you’re in Amsterdam on a short stay. Many courses are booked full in advance and most take several weeks. Practically all combine museum visits with lessons too.

So the roughly one-hour-long Teekentoer is a brilliant alternative. Your qualified teacher-guide will not only take you to various corners of the museum. You will receive some advise about drawing, while a pencil and small sketchbook are included! All you need to do is ensure you have a valid museum entrance ticket and have reserved a place for the tour, which can be done through the museum website (scroll down).

So: nothing kept me from joining a drawing tour last Saturday. With valid tickets, I joined group and teacher-guide in the museum’s Atrium. We all received a pencil and sketchbook and entered the museum.

RM3A few instructions, a reminder to stick to visiting rules, and off we went to the late Middle Ages. After some advise and hints, we were given ten minutes to select and sketch one of the museum’s treasures: Les Pleurants; ten weepers or mourners. These happen to be among my favourite statues and I visit them or a similar group at Antwerp’s Museum Mayer van den Berg, at least once a year.

While we were concentrating on putting a few lines on paper, our teacher had a look at our attempts. Everybody received encouragements, hints and advise. Other visitors wanted to see what we were up to and also became enthusiastic. Our teacher handed out extra pencils and sketchbooks.

All visitors were left to their own devices, while the group assembled after about ten minutes. We were asked to show our work to fellow group members, to discuss and learn from each other. Then our teacher took us to a room full of Asian art, containing our next challenge.

The whole procedure was repeated in various rooms stressing observing works of art. For the focus of these tours is not just having a go at drawing or copying art. The idea behind these tours is to teach to observe art.

Research has shown, the average museum visitor takes at most nine seconds to look at works of art. Forcing people to look while drawing, teaches them to observe. This way of observing is not lost when a tour ends or visitors leave a museum. Drawing helps train and improve this skill.

Of course, the hour ended far too quickly! We simply couldn’t stop sketching. While visiting various rooms, the group had tried drawing statues, ships, paintings. Rembrand’ts “Nightwatch” was skipped, as the room where it hangs, is always overflowing with visitors.

It must be said: you need to steel yourself. Inquisitive visitors from all over the world insist on having a peek over your shoulder. On the other hand: you do not need any drawing skills. It does not matter how good your sketches are, as long as you have fun. If visitors peeking at your work unnerve you, you can abandon this challenge and meander off, to discover the rest of the museum.

Throughout the museum are selected locations which correspond with pages in your sketchbook, which also contains a map. So once the tour has finished, you can find these spots to continue sketching. One spot is actually a ceiling! Unaccompanied by teacher and group, you can draw as much as you want – though various inquisitive visitors will continue to check your work.

So: why not give this Rijksmuseum Teekentoer a try tool? It takes only an hour, while you will visit museum rooms many visitors skip. To reserve a place, scroll down to the right link. Groups can book their own tour with private teacher-guide and on other days than Saturday – but this does cost money.

Have kids with you on your visit? Ask at the Information Desk which children’s activities are available. While we were drawing, a group of children used a special museum room to create beautiful postcards.

Rijksmuseum Amsterdam
Rijksmuseum Amsterdam Saturday Drawing Tour

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