Friday, February 06, 2009

Boats n Hos (Part 1)

And now, the long overdue Spinster Travelogue Netherlands Edition. Since this was a very museum-heavy trip (I mean, holy cats! This place is stuffed so full of Rembrandts it's like a freaking masterpiece jamboroo around here) it'll read more like a gallery round-up than a travelogue, but that's the way it was I tell ya. Listen, between the insane cultural treasure-trove, the gale-force winds, driving rain, and my inside-out umbrella, I was more than happy to spend a lot of time indoors. Here's the best of what I saw, where I supped, and things I learned. Also, a thrilling account of almost falling into a canal.

Let's start with Amsterdam: The Van Gogh Museum and the Rijksmuseum.
Admittedly, I found the VGM underwhelming, and wondered if all his best work is scattered around the globe at various other museums, or if I was just spoiled by the very good MoMA exhibit earlier this year.(MoMA owns Starry Night, I think, so probably my scatter-theory has some merit). The Rijksmuseum was partially closed for renovation, but they thoughtfully had a "greatest hits" section open which included Rembrandt's Night Watch and Syndics of the Draper's Guild, and Vermeer's Milkmaid, and View of Houses in Delft (1658), below.

The only streetscape he ever painted, for which he applied paint in varying layers of thickness to depict glass versus paint, bricks, etc.

The Milkmaid is very still, calm, and peaceful, milk being the only movement in the picture.

Rembrandt loved a single light source and was interested in directing the viewer's eye.

Nightwatch isn't a nocturnal scene at all but rather a dark indoor scene illuminated by a single shaft of sunlight -- the misnomer is the result of dirt on the painting.

At this point I am beginning to become utterly spoiled by all the visual goodness around me, and Rotterdam has yet more in store.

Rotterdam was bombed to pieces during WWII, so it lacks the medieval center most European cities have (see what I learned at the Maritime Museum!). But it rebuilt astonishingly quickly embracing new and daring architectural forms, like Piet Blom's Cubic Houses:

Apparently the houses are meant to represent abstract trees that, when taken together, become a forest. But I think the cube houses provide a parallax view from certain angles, evoking the columns in an ancient structure, or the naves in a Gothic cathedral:

Perhaps I'm imagining things

While I was walking from the Maritime Museum to the Cube Houses the rain picked up and evening began to fall, so that by the time I left the Cubes to head back to my hotel, the whipping wind and the darkness so disoriented me that I lost my way. Stumbling around a city while lost is one thing; stumbling around a city whose streets end abruptly in waterways is another. I kept turning my umbrella this way and that to shelter myself from the rain, sometimes having to place it directly in front of me, looking only at the ground to see where I was going. I crossed a footbridge. I could see only very dimly. I looked up to try and orient myself and skirted left a little too sharply. Narrowly, by about a foot or so, I missed stumbling into the water. "Wouldn't that be just like me," I thought, "To fall into a canal in January?"


P.L. Kerpius said...

My mind is blowing up from reading this report. My mind is blowing up. This is great, and you have some really wonderful shots too.

Your talk of Rembrandt reminds me of this children's picture book I picked up number of years ago, Rembrandt and Titus--do you know it? It's a great look at his artwork that's told through a very personal historical perspective. It's really lovely.

Andrea Janes said...

Ooh! Any excuse to read children's lit, I'll take. I want to go to there, now.