Rijks & Van Gogh Museums

Trip Start Nov 29, 2011
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Trip End Dec 10, 2011


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Flag of Netherlands  , Noord-Holland,
Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Of all the sites we are to see on this trip, the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum are the ones that I am most keen to see and today is the day! Exciting!

The Rijksmuseum may be in "highlight mode" while the museum is under renovation, but the display of over 400 masterpieces is an exceptional opportunity to see the very best of the collection together.   From beautiful doll houses, silverware, Delftware and world famous paintings of Jan Steen, Frans Hals, Vermeer and Rembrandt we follow along with the audio guide and immerse ourselves in the Dutch Golden Age. 

I take out my notebook and pen and keep asking myself questions – what do I like about the object/painting?  How & what am I responding to?  What techniques were used?  What's the color palette? Questions upon questions.  In my notebook, I write those words that will trigger my memory back home for exploration of brush strokes, colors, shapes, subjects, symbolism, etc.  My eyes and mind are wide open and it is being filled with ideas.  Looking at paintings on a computer screen is so different than seeing a painting in person – the opportunity to walk up close to see the brush strokes and then step back to see the overall affect, to see the true colors and nuanced subtlety employed, to experience the paintings in their original size with optimal lighting.  I am like a sponge and loving every minute.   

We arrived at the Rijks at 9 AM and it’s now about 1:30 PM.  We didn’t know how long we would spend here, we just got involved and let ourselves follow the flow.  I am so thankful that we’re all so travel compatible and easy about going with the flow.  I appreciate that it was okay to spend so much time here!

We’re hungry and need some time to sit, so we head over to the café at the Van Gogh Museum.  After a light lunch and rest, we do some time travel from the 17th century  Dutch Golden Age to the late 19th century, 1880 – 1890.    We are exposed to a chronology of Van Gogh’s development as an artist.  He was largely self-taught and we see his development into his distinctive style of painting.    I am impressed by quotes such as: “time was ripe to paint what I am not yet able to” in order to learn how to do it”; spirit, not fact – that is my interpretation; “Capturing the Essence”.  Here also I have my notebook out and jot down notes exploring what contributes to the vitality and vibrancy of Van Gogh’s paintings.  That is a key question for me as I have been wondering about how to achieve vibrancy when I develop my photographs and composites and it is tremendously stimulating to observe these paintings live, to feel their presence and then analyze the contributing factors.  How thankful I am to have this experience!

After our usual happy hour at Barry & Karen’s room where we are starting to dent the bottles of scotch and wine, we head off to Café Pompa, in easy walking distance from the hotel.  There is quite a wide menu selection.  We choose to share an appetizer of large mussels and Harvey actually tries one.  He tells us later that it was “icky”.  One person’s pleasure is another ones ickiness – I enjoyed them.  For our main courses, we have pasta with shrimp & mussels, pasta with shrimp (heads and all), vegetarian antipasto with side dishes of garlic shrimp and mushrooms.  All dishes are declared yummy. 

Over dinner, we talk about the day and what was most memorable.  Here are some of the comments off the top of our heads:

  • Wonderful to spend time in two small museums with a specific focus.
  • Rembrandt’s Nightwatch is a spectacular painting – detail unbelievable, it was cut off at end
  • Rembrandt – how he looks at lighting
  • Franz Hall – wedding couple painting if Margie's favorite painting
  • Jan Steen is Harvey's favorite - sense of humor & playfulness of scenes
  • Van Gogh - to walk through and see his development as a painter and his life story – active artist for ten years – part of that learning how to paint and in sanitorium; it was fascinating.  Would I buy this?  No – wasn’t appreciated until 20th century.
  • For me, Van Gogh offers inspiration to keep trying and enjoy the process of discovery and developing my visual voice
  • Painting entitled  “Underbrush”  - Standing close no idea – stand back, magnificent forest so lush & green
  • Dollhouses – beautiful pieces – pinnacle of profession to create the silver, china, etc.  yet the motivation for making is the pinnacle of ostentachousness
A day absorbed in painting masterworks.  Amsterdam offers such unbelievable treasures.

                                                                                        “One’s destination is never a place,
                                                                                          but a new way of seeing things.”
                                                                                                                          -Henry Miller

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