I am not an art history expert. I would like to be, but I have been too busy cultivating my own artistic aesthetic and style to be bothered to take even one course. I’ll put it on my someday list. I don’t mind saying I appreciate art with a good eye. I know what I like. And I like the way the Dutch were in on the whole impressionist movement. I’m a fan of Vermeer, VanGogh and Rembrandt…of course. Who isn’t? I told you I’m not an expert.
My first trip to Holland I stayed in Leiden, a small town outside of Amsterdam, only a fifteen minute train ride away. I may not have mentioned that Amsterdam begins at the Central Station. The whole city opens like a fan from that one point. It’s so simple to hop a train in a minute and be on the way to anywhere at all. I like riding trains because that allows me to walk to the trains, and solitude for reading while I ride. I could be a great city dweller.
Leiden is the birth place of Rembrandt. They are overly proud of this, and they should be. His father was a miller, which means they lived in a windmill and the family grew and milled flour for the town. The windmill Rembrandt grew up in is no longer in existence, but there is a beautiful windmill in town that is both set up as a museum to show how it would be to live inside one as well as in operation as a working mill to provide flour for the community today. I toured it of course. Enjoy the pictures. One little bit about Rembrandt that is sad to know: he was one of the most popular living artists of his time enjoying wealthy commissions in his day, but he bought a canal house and couldn’t manage his money so he ended up in bankruptcy and penniless when he died. It’s hard to believe his paintings are so valuable now and he never really got to enjoy a lifestyle on his abilities. His best works are in the Rijiksmuseum which has been closed for a long time for renovation.
Vermeer has a way with faces and light, like the French artist Renoir. I recommend the novel by Tracy Chevalier: The Girl with the Pearl Earring. Yes, it’s a movie, but it’s an even better book. VanGogh is the odd artist. He was going to be a priest but he couldn’t pass the exams! So he took up painting and only painted for ten years before he died. He made several hundred works of art in that time, and he was a learn as you go artist, not really formally trained. He is quoted as saying this about his art: ” One thing I know, within a few years I must bring a certain work to completion… I am concerned with the world only insofar as I have, as it were a certain debt and duty… and also because I want out of gratitude to leave behind a sort of remembrance in the form of drawings and paintngs…not made in order to promote this or that trend, but on account of them having in them something that expresses a sincere human sentiment. That is the goal of my work.” He indeed met his goal. He only ever sold one painting. And he never knew his own popularity while he was alive. It’s hard to imagine that as Craig and I walked through the Van Gogh museum. It is set up in a way that takes the viewer from his early beginnings to his end describing his development as an artist as well as giving insight into his inner troubled world as a person. He’s famous for cutting off his ear, painting Starry NIght and the Sunflowers, of course among others. We really enjoyed our visit to that museum. Did you note my art neutral husband said he really enjoyed the museum? It is a must see.
As far as I am concerned the real art in Amsterdam is on the street with the way people go about life. They all ride their bikes. Cars are inconvenient, and a bike gets the job done. I had great fun observing how they manage the stuff of life, and the obstinate weather on their bicycles. Nothing was more interesting though than the parents who have these huge bikes with wooden wheelbarrow contraptions in the front to tote around their families- big kids, not just little tykes. Fascinating. It inspired me so much because I love my bikes. I prefer to ride everywhere on it if at all possible. I have one for exercise- road bike made for speed, one for dirt trails ( a very old one but cannot part with it) and my cruiser for city dwelling. I got it for Christmas after being in Amsterdam and watching them ride upright with wide handlebars with backpedal breaks. I love it. I do my errands on it as often as possible, however, the threat of rain doesn’t bring out my umbrella, but instead pushes me into the car. The Dutch speed around energetically on their cycles, with lean bodies, fresh glowing skin and hair blowing in the wind. They seem to know a secret that America needs to adopt.
That is enough for today. I will save Anne Frank and the stupid american msitakes I made which helped me meet the police – that’s for tomorrow.