June 29, 2019

The Rijksmuseum – Amsterdam

Dateline: Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

My body not yet knowing the proper time, I slept in some this morning, but was still up and dressed before the breakfast buffet shut down. The Doubletree breakfast is a bit nicer than the Hampton Inn breakfast but seems to come from the same corporate kitchens. The day was rapidly warming (the European heat wave has reached the low countries and the unseasonably high temperatures are in the high eighties to low nineties. Fortunately, humidity remains low and there’s a nice breeze off the water. Nevertheless, I decided today might be a good day for indoors in the air conditioning pursuits.

I headed off for the plaza encompassing most of the major museums by a circuitous route. I did wander through a book shop or two and purchased a copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in Dutch to add to my collection of translations. I also had a nice pastry or two as I continued trekking uptown. I decided to stick with the basics and settled on the Rijksmuseum and The Van Gogh museum. The modern art museum was doing a Banksy retrospective and his stuff is so site specific, that I can’t see much of a reason to view it in a gallery. Besides, it would remind me way too much of a Jeff Koons show Steve and I went to in San Francisco. By the time we got to the vacuum cleaners in plexiglass boxes, we were both in hysterics.

Rembrandt’s The Night Watch

The Rijksmuseum is the big national art museum, housed in a large Victorian brick fantasia that looks too much like the main train station for its own good. I imagine the same civic architectural team was responsible for both. The centerpiece of the collection are its galleries of paintings and artifacts from the golden age of Dutch painting and culture, the 17th century. And the centerpiece of that is Rembrandt’s enormous canvas, the Night Watch. It’s hanging in a more out of the way niche at the moment as the museum is building a conservation exhibit that will allow the public to watch as the painting is resotred and preserved. The building is chock full of still lifes, peasant allegories, portraits, biblical scenes, and gold leaf madonnas. There are plenty of Rembrandts but there are astonishingly few Vermeers. He’s my favorite of the Dutch artists of the period and his surviving works are few and scattered.

Van Gogh Museum – Amsterdam

Then a beer for reinforcement before heading into the Van Gogh museum, built in the 70s by Van Gogh’s nephew to house the family’s Van Gogh collection as a gift to the state and the public. A couple of special exhibits. One devoted to his Sunflowers looking at the painting, what influenced it, what it influenced, how the colors have changed over time. I enjoyed it. The other was trying to visually represent his nervous breakdown in Arles with glass flowers and flashing lights. I did not enjoy that one. The main collection was much as I remembered it from 35 years ago when I and the museum were both relatively new. I did not buy a Sunflowers throw or Van Gogh inspired jewelry from the gift shop.

The version of Sunflowers in the Van Gogh Museum

Pho for dinner and another long walk through Amsterdam. Then it was time for putting my feet up after about ten miles for the day according to my pedometer. Tomorrow I have to figure out how to get myself on to the boat.

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