A guide to art works to see in Europe

This guide looks at just a few of the many great works that can be seen during a river cruise break through Europe’s main cities at some of the best galleries and museums in the world. From the famed Rijksmuseum to national galleries, Europe has plenty for everyone from the amateur enthusiasts to the connoisseur art critic.

Rembrandt van Rijn, ‘Self-portrait as the Apostle Paul’

The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam is one of the country’s most prized museums for its extensive collection of prominent artworks, not least the famed work Self-portrait as the Apostle Paul by Rembrandt. The Rijksmuseum was founded in 1800 and moved from The Hague to Amsterdam eight years later. With an eclectic mix of art and history the Rijksmuseum has a collection of 8,000 objects on display with some of its most significant pieces created by the likes Rembrandt van Rijn, Johannes Vermeer and Frans Hals. The above image is a fantastic example of artistic style in the 1600s as Rembrandt’s Militia Company of District II under the Command of Captain Frans Banninck Cocq, more commonly known as the ‘Night Watch’, shows exaggerated use of chiaroscuro and military elements in its concept.

Next to Rembrandt’s work there are many other examples of artworks at the Rijksmuseum that have helped shape today’s contemporary artists. Here, the Rijksmuseum explains how they are still the top museum in Amsterdam.

The Museum of the Netherlands completely renewed! In a sequence of 80 galleries, 8,000 objects tell the story of 800 years of Dutch art and history.

The presentation of the Rijksmuseum collection is a journey through Dutch art and history from the Middle Ages and Renaissance until the 21st century. At the heart of the museum is the magnificent Gallery of Honour, presenting world-famous masterpieces by Vermeer, Rembrandt, Frans Hals and Jan Steen. The Gallery of Honour leads visitors to the dedicated space that Dutch architect Cuypers created for Rembrandt’s Night Watch, and where this world-famous masterpiece can be admired. - Rijksmuseum

Andy Warhol, ‘Bellevue II’

Andy Warhol’s Bellevue II silkscreen work was created in 1963 and now hangs on the walls of Amsterdam’s Stedelijk Museum. This dramatic image takes its form from a police photograph and was created by being silkscreened multiple times onto the canvas, giving it its filmic appearance. This work is a great example from Warhol’s Death and Disaster series, making it a great Warhol work to see whilst in Amsterdam.

The museum sits in Museum Square in Amsterdam, nearby the Rijksmuseum and the Concertgebouw. The museum is also home to works by fellow Pop Artist Roy Lichtenstein and the prominent figures Paul Cezanne, Otto Dix, Max Ernst, sculptor Alberto Giaccometti, Gilbert & George, Vincent Van Gogh, and renowned photographer Cindy Sherman.

Albrecht Dürer, ‘The Feast of the Rosary’

This famed 1506 oil painting by renowned artist Albrecht Dürer was created as a result of a commission during his brief stay in Venice. Its subject, the Feast of Rosary, was inspired by the German inhabitants of Venice and their worship of Our Lady of the Rosary at this time. The work now stands in The National Gallery in Prague following Emperor Rudolf II’s acquisition of the work in 1606 when he moved it from Venice to Prague.

Jan Van Eyck, ‘The Virgin and Child with Canon van der Paele’

This work by the highly regarded Netherlandish painter Jan Van Eyck dates back to the 1400s and was commissioned as an epitaph for Bruges clergyman Joris van der Paele. The Groeninge Museum in Bruges is the current owner and also holds significant works by artists Marcel Broodthaers, Hugo van der Goes and Nicolaes Maes.

The Groeninge Museum is a great place to visit as a whole, even if you don’t go to see an esteemed Van Eyck. Their focal point is their impressive collection of Flemish Primitives, but they also have an established collection of 18th and 19th Century neoclassical pieces, as well as Flemish Expressionist masterpieces and post-war modern art. Entry to the Groenginge Museum is free with a Brugge City Card or just €8 euros otherwise.

Vincent Van Gogh, ‘Sunflowers’

The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam was named as the most visited museum in the Netherlands in 2012 thanks to its huge collection of works by the immensely celebrated post-Impressionist Dutch painter. Holding the largest collection of Van Gogh paintings and drawings in the world, including such significant works as The Potato Eaters and a number of self-portraits for guests of Rhine river cruises in Europe to view during their stay.

John Constable, ‘The Celebration in East Bergholt of the Peace of 1814’

While painter John Constable is a renowned British artist and many of his best-known works can be seen in the London galleries of the Tate Britain and the Victoria and Albert Museum, this 1814 piece is in a league of its own and is unique to the Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest, Hungary. The museum also contains works by renowned painters Leonardo da Vinci, Rembrandt and Titian, making it a must-visit during stays in the Hungarian capital.

“Budapest’s Museum of Fine Arts is regarded as one of Central Europe's most significant museums: its multi-faceted material, historical continuity and profusion of masterpieces assure it a deserved place in the front rank of collections.

Today, as one of Hungary’s leading national institutions, this outstanding museum welcomes over half a million visitors each year, attracted by its exciting programme of temporary exhibitions and its famous permanent collections.” –The Museum of Fine Arts

Egon Schiele, ‘Self-portrait with Physalis’

The Leopold Museum in Vienna is known for keeping the largest collection of Schiele works in the world and the Self-portrait with Physalis painting is one of the finest. The strong brush strokes and colouring make the image of the 22-year-old artist intensely powerful and illustrates his dynamic and signature expressionist style.

The museum also houses works by Austrian artists Gustav Klimt, Richard Gerstl and Oskar Kokoschka. To find out more about current exhibitions and opening times, go to the Leopold Museum website.

Image Credit: Rijksmuseum