H/B/F 2017: Van Gogh and Rijksmuseum

Amsterdam is home to many fantastic museums, and it’s impossible to see them all in a week.  I saw the big three (the two mentioned here and the Stedelijk), as well as some smaller ones, such as the Bag and Purse Museum and the Amsterdam Museum.

We chose to hit the Van Gogh Museum on a Friday night when it was open late, and we were greeted with a party!  There was live music, vendors, food and drinks in the lobby.  We hadn’t had dinner yet, so we went ahead and enjoyed the scene with some snacks.

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The Van Gogh Museum began with a room full of his self-portraits, organized chronologically.  It was interesting to see how his art evolved over time and with his mental illness.  I didn’t realize the scope of his artistic ability, ranging from landscapes and self-portraits to Impressionist work, pieces with Chinese influence and even modern art.

On Saturday, to escape the heat, we heading again into Amsterdam to enjoy some air conditioning at the Rijksmuseum.

Inside, we focused only on the Dutch Golden Age, which is housed in a great gallery, designed specifically for these pieces:

We saw a still life by Pieter Claesz , a Haarlem boy known for his work with light and reflection.  I fell in love with his work in the ‘Slow Food’ exhibition at the Mauritshuis in The Hague.  For more about our trip there, click here.

This piece was on loan from Leiden, which is where I ran my half-marathon!

Along with Rembrandt, Johannes Vermeer is king of the Dutch Masters painters.  We specifically waited to visit the Rijksmuseum until Saturday as his painting, The Milkmaid, had just returned from being on loan to another museum. We visited a museum dedicated to him in Delft, which features reproductions of all his 34 paintings with detailed descriptions of his style and themes.

Below right is ‘Reading a Letter’ and second from right is ‘The Milkmaid.’

Jan Steen, who paints humorous scenes like Norman Rockwell, is another Dutch Master we saw in various museums during our trip.

Finally, here is Rembrandt’s self-portrait as Paul:

Rembrandt’s The Night Watch, hugely famous:

While I can’t say I loved EVERYTHING I saw, I can say that I have a much better understanding of the Dutch Golden Age and the artists who painted during that time period.  I learned to recognize some of the themes and techniques, such as still lifes, landscapes, use of light and textures and a departure from religious scenes.

As we only visited the single gallery (which took almost two hours!), we’ll just have to come back for the rest another time!

H/B/F 2017: Corrie Ten Boom, Zandvoort, (a little) Amsterdam and Den Haag

Here’s a few more things I was up to last week:

I made sure to visit the Corrie Ten Boom house here in Haarlem.  If you’ve never heard of her, think of her story as the other half of the Anne Frank story (her hide-out is in Amsterdam, we plan to visit next week).  Corrie came from a long line of believers here in Haarlem, who (obviously) were sympathetic to the plight of the Jews during World War II.  Corrie, her older sister, Betsie, and their father hid Jews in what they called ‘the hiding place’ in their home here in Haarlem. They even had an architect friend come in and build a real brick wall in their home (it took a week to smuggle in the supplies) to create the small space needed.

Tours are free, led by volunteers and incredibly moving.  It’s clear their main purpose is to evangelize while telling Corrie’s story.  She, Betsie and their father were arrested under suspicion of hiding Jews and sent to some of the worst concentration camps in Germany. Thankfully, the six people hiding at their time of their arrest were aided by a sympathetic policeman and led to safety.  Betsie and their father died in the camps, but Corrie was inexplicably released and vowed to travel the world spreading the Gospel.

I was moved to tears (along with many others) by the end of the tour, and was happy to obtain my own copy of her book–The Hiding Place–there at her home.

Later that afternoon, I rented a bike and headed out to Zandvoort, a local beach about 45 minutes away by bike.   The area was experiencing record temps, so anyone who could be was out on their bikes.

I copped a squat at a recommended beachside bar and drank some cold brews, snacked on a pineapple/orange ‘cookie’ I got at a local health food store and caught up on some magazine reading.  (Note to self: the pineapple orange flavor combo was fantastic–must replicate at home!)

That evening, Andrew and I took a train to Amsterdam to meet his co-worker from East Aurora, Frank, for dinner.  If you’ve never seen the biking action here in Amsterdam, it’s certainly an event to witness.  According to our guidebook, the average family has four bikes, and in the city it’s most certainly their main mode of transportation.  They even have parking ramps just for bikes!

Andrew, Frank and I grabbed a beer before finding a place for dinner.  Our view:

Andrew played around in a passageway with a beautiful ceiling:

On Thursday, I jumped on a train to Den Haag  to meet Andrew there to visit the Mauritshuis, their art museum featuring Rembrandts, Vermeers and Frans Hals, Haarlem’s golden boy.  It is home to Vermeer’s ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring,’ its biggest attraction. I loved the juxtaposition of both the old and new architecture in this big(ish) city full of tall buildings, people in suits and young professionals.

I arrived at the museum about 30 minutes before Andrew, and their temporary exhibit, Slow Food, caught my eye. (Of course.)  I had no idea what it was, but an almost supernatural force drew me to it.  (For what it’s worth, we almost never spend much time at museums’ specialty exhibitions.)  Slow Food is a compilation of Dutch artists’ food-themed still life paintings from the 1600s.  INCREDIBLE.  Incredible.  Despite their very ‘traditional’ look (I’m more of a modern art girl, myself), I fell in love with the pieces.  The colors.  The food. The styling.  The upturned glassware. The perfectly painted reflections and play of the light. This exhibit–by far–has been my favorite of any I’ve seen, and even rivals all the Impressionist works in the Musee d’Orsay in Paris.

We spent the rest of our time admiring both the interior of the Mauritshuis (only two floors of paintings in approximately 15 rooms, all ornately decorated) and the museum’s ‘biggies.’ Vermeer painted a similar work to ‘The Girl with a Pearl Earring’ and I’ll never know why her portrait (not of an actual person) didn’t rise to fame like the other.  (She wasn’t quite as pretty…)

After the museum, Andrew and I wandered over to a lively square to join everyone else for happy hour.  We ended up at Café Paraplu for dinner, a little spot tucked away in a quiet corner of the city.