Following a recent visit to the AGNSW exhibition Rembrandt and the Dutch golden age – masterpieces from the Rijksmuseum, the brilliance of Rembrandt, his contemporaries, and those that followed, sent me digging deep into the past, travel notebooks, back to a journey in Europe and five days in Amsterdam in 1983. At the time an escape from frenzied life drawing more like scribbling classes. Amsterdam an art feast, as always the best way to get acquainted with a city was to walk as much as possible and catch public transport. However, footloose wandering without a plan did lead down some surrealist streets, past suspect shopfronts presented an ideal opportunity for some life drawing (inspired by Toulouse-Lautrec and Otto Dix), but decided to move on in case I was charged with loitering with intent to draw, and glad to make it back to the Leidseplein before dark.
Back then, I had the audacity to take a photo of Rembrandt’s masterpiece The Night Watch with an old film Kodak Instamatic camera, but well I was there and nothing was the same again as the saying goes. Thick texture, composition rather than side by side, back to front, so life like figures almost about to leap out of the frame, blazing with light, three dimensional.1 Unlike reproductions in books, that photo although faded (see below) always continues to resonate, evoking memories of the time and place when the photo was taken, so I tend to defend taking pictures of artworks provided it does not intrude on other peoples’ space in an exhibition or gallery2.
Another highlight was the exceptional collection at the Kröller-Müller Museum and the challenge of getting there by train, bus, and then a bike ride for a couple of kilometres in the De Hoge Veluwe National Park. “Established in 1934 a private collection gift to the State”3 The Museum represents a range of works from all periods from ancient Greece to modern art. It “has the second largest collection of Van Gogh’s works in the world, as well as modern masters including Claude Monet, Georges Seurat, Pablo Picasso and Piet Mondrian. The sculpture garden now has more than 160 sculptures by prominent artists, from Auguste Rodin to Henry Moore, and from Jean Dubuffet to Joep van Lieshout” Art heaven for a few hours, first time I had seen works by among others Arp, Dubuffet, Maillol, Marini, Oldenburg, Snelson (see snaps below), Serra, di Suvero, Fontana. Going back through the collection on the website a continuing inspiration.
Sense of Place
So busy looking at art, forgot to take any other photos of places
Amsterdam from the ferry, canal tour 31/8/1983
Reminder of a neighbour, outside Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam 31/8/1983
Rembrandt’s The Night Watch, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam 31/8/1983
Day trip to Marken, 1/9/1983
Kroller-Muller Museum, Otterlo 2/9/1983
Jacob van Ruisdael, Waterfall & Hilly Wooded Landscape, 1655
Johannes Vermeer, View of Delft, 1660-61
Vincent van Gogh, Wheat Field with Cypresses, 1889
Willem de Kooning, Door to the River, 1960
1 Simon Schama, Power of Art, 2006 (book and DVD)
2 Instagram is changing the way we experience art, and that’s a good thing, Adam Suess and Kylie Budge, The Conversation, 31 January 2018
3 Kröller-Müller Museum, catalogue, 1981
Intensely Dutch: image, abstraction and the word post-war and beyond, exhibition catalogue, AGNSW 5 June-23 August 2009