13 June 2012

Dutch Masters and more at Rijksmuseum

To be honest, my intention was to go to the Van Gogh Museum but I knew that would be difficult when the tram driver announced the stop before the museum as the place to get off to join the queue.

And he was right despite the steady rain.

So I got off the tram, caught one back the other way for just one stop (it was raining, remember) and went to the  Rijksmuseum instead.

There was bit of a queue here too but it was much shorter, was under cover and was moving fairly quickly. I was inside within ten minutes.

The building has the same proportions and sense of grandeur as, say, the Natural History Museum with a decidedly Amsterdam feel to it with its neat brickwork and steeply pitched roof that is now clad in solar panels.

Inside the Dutch Mastery is immediately on show as you are greeted by this large picture.

And this is exactly why I was not keen on going to the museum in the first place, my expectation of the Dutch Masters is dull pictures of people of no historical importance.

Well painted maybe, but dull.

The dullest of these are the Rembrandts where the boring people are dressed in black and are painted against an ill-defined dark background.

Now that I've got that off my chest it is time for the good news.

There is a lot more to the museum than pictures.

Things like this dolls house that cost more than a typical worker's house at the time it was built.

That probably says as much about the workers housing as it does about this doll's house.

The detail here is amazing and the museum helpfully provides a step ladder to let you get up close to all the rooms.

All you have to do is fight your way through the horde of girls to get there. As a regular commuter in London that was not too much of a challenge!

There was also a lot of porcelain on display most of it relating to the days of the Dutch East India Company.

I could have chosen one of the objects with an oriental flavour, dragons and the like, but the piece that I found most attractive was this bust of some Dutch Queen (probably Mary, not that it really matters).

The museum was busy but not overly so and that made it easy to get to see most of the objects. Some, like the dolls house, were very popular and required a little waiting or jostling, as you would expect.

It helped that the rooms were spacious and with clear routes between them so most of us were walking in the same direction rather than competing with each other.

It feels like the Royal Academy rather than the V&A, both because of its layout and its safe content. There are some unusual things on show but this is nothing like as quirky as the V&A that turns quirkiness into an art form.

Another royal portrait was a big surprise, and a pleasant one.

This is Andy Warhol's 1984 picture of Queen Beatrix Of The Netherlands.

It is part of a series that includes our own Queen (who was busy celebrating her Jubilee while I was in the museum).

It is a simple and effective piece of art and is made more effective here through its shock tactics.

This is a museum full of old pictures of people in dark clothes in dark settings so a touch of colour is somewhat shocking.

At this point a coffee was needed but the refurbishment meant that the museum currently has no cafe, which is all but inexhaustible. At least some of the rooms had benches in where you can sit and rest while pretending to look at some of the pictures.

Amsterdam owes its wealth to sea trade and so you would expect to see quite a few nautical paintings, like this one.

It is always a little odd when visiting a museum in a country that we have had the odd spat with as you get a different perspective on some events and learn about some new ones.

An example of this was the daring raid by the Dutch on Medway that we somehow skipped over in our history lessons. I suspect that this is a case of the Dutch over promoting their achievements, but that may be my English bias.

Finally, there was one Dutch Master that I did like very much.

The Milkmaid by Johannes Vermeer shrieks at you in a way that this photo fails to capture. In real life the yellow and blue are vibrant and turn a typically dull Dutch painting in to something rather exciting.

The use of light featured in a lot of the pictures, either as an experiment to highlight an aspect of the countryside or as a device to artificially draw attention to something in the picture,  and while some of those examples had merit it was this picture making use of the light through the window that shows how light can be used to transform a simple image.

The yardstick that I judge museums and galleries by is how easily they swallow time and at the Rijksmuseum took two and a half hours with no effort. And it did that with most of it shut.

Outside the rain had stopped, or eased enough not to matter, so it was a more leisurely walk to the tram stop and the short journey back in to the centre for a coffee and a rest content with a morning well spent.

1 comment:

  1. I really enjoyed this museum last time I went. I agree that The Night Watch is fairly underwhelming but they had a life sized installation of it in Rembrandtplein that was pretty cool.

    One of my faves tho' was Rembrandthuis. They have an old press and use Rembrandt's original plates to demonstrate the etching process. I was completely fascinated by the skill involved. And naturally you are invited upstairs to see his etchings! Well worth a visit if you've not been before.


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