Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Hauge

The Hauge is such a fun place, there are so many different vibes happening in this city. It reminded me a lot of Charleston and Savannah with large, white mansions nestled on the bank
 of the river. It's also a relaxed beach town, yet also has a very strong European and Dutch feel with flower covered bridges, and pedestrians and bicyclists filling the small sidewalks and streets.

 "The Netherlands' third-largest city, Den Haag, is a stately, regal place filled with embassies and mansions, green boulevards and parks, a refined culinary scene, a clutch of fine museums and a sybaritic cafe culture. Conversely, its seaside suburb of Scheveningen has a loud and lively atmosphere and a long stretch of beach. Officially known as ’s-Gravenhage (the Count's Hedge), Den Haag is the Dutch seat of government and home to the royal family. Prior to 1806, Den Haag was the Dutch capital. However, that year, Louis Bonaparte installed his government in Amsterdam. Eight years later, when the French had been ousted, the government returned to Den Haag, but the title of capital remained with Amsterdam."

Our first stop in this unique city was at the Peace Palace. We didn't have the time to take a tour of the inside, we just had time to take a quick look around the grounds. There was a young couple taking some gorgeous wedding photos in a classic, red car which was a fun little surprise. 

The Palace officially opened on 28 August 1913, and was originally built to provide a home for the Permanent Court of Arbitration, a court created to end war by the Hague Convention of 1899. Andrew Dickson White, whose efforts were instrumental in creating the court, secured from his friend American steel magnate Andrew Carnegie US$1.5 million to build the Peace Palace. Today, the Palace is an international law administrative building that is often called "the seat of international law" because it houses the Permanent Court of Arbitration and International Court of Justice (which is the principal judicial body of the United Nations), as well as the Hague Academy of International Law and the Peace Palace Library.

My favorite part of this stop was the Just Imagine Wish Tree. Apparently, this trend started with an art instillation by Yoko Ono sometime in the 1980s

"Imagine all the people living life in peace" - John Lennon

"A dream you dream alone is just a dream, 
A dream you dream together is reality" - Yoko Ono

It was a very sweet moment in time, reading through some of the wishes visitors from all over the world had tied to the tree. Wishes were written in a variety of different languages and from people of all ages.

After our brief stop at the Peace Palace, we headed towards our main event for the afternoon, the Mauritshius Museum. More than two hundred top works from Dutch and Flemish masters are on display in the historic yet intimate interior, with its silken wall coverings, sparkling chandeliers and monumental painted ceilings.  Genre paintings by Jan Steen, landscapes by Jacob van Ruisdael, still lifes by Adriaen Coorte and portraits by Rubens offer a rich and varied representation of the best of seventeenth-century Dutch and Flemish painting.

This museum has made it's way on to my list of my top 3 favorite museums, along with the Frick in New York and the Galleria Borghese in Rome. I love small, intimate and ornate museums, where the buildings themselves are just as beautiful as the works they showcase. While there are many priceless and well known works of art in this museum, the two main draws are:

The Gold Finch
Carel Fabritius 1654
The painting is a trompe-l'œil of a European goldfinch, in the 17th century, goldfinches were popular pets because they could be trained to draw water from a bowl with a miniature bucket. The work was painted without major corrections, with only minor ones to the contours of the bird. Most of the painting is set up with large brush strokes, but details such as the chain are painted with more precision. Fabritius showed off his skill by painting the bird's head foreshortenedIt is one of three paintings that Fabritius painted in the year that he died. It is painted in a style distinct from Fabritius' master Rembrandt. In style, the work is closer to Fabritius' supposed pupil Johannes Vermeer, who further improved the skill of painting shadows.
(Yes, I have read the book that is linked to this painting and I absolutely hated it. Well actually, I disliked it so much that I couldn't even bring myself to finish it, I didn't want to waste anymore of my time on such a horrible storyline. It is a shame that such a terrible book should be written about such a beautiful painting. However, that is just my opinion, I know plenty of people who love the book. So, please, no negative comments.)

The Girl With The Pearl Earring
Johannes Vermeer c. 1665

Girl with a Pearl Earring was originally titled, Girl with a Turban, it wasn't until the second half of the twentieth century that the name was changed. Regarded as Vermeer's masterpiece, this canvas is often referred to as the Mona Lisa of the North or the Dutch Mona LisaThe girl in this painting is believed to be Vermeer's eldest daughter, Maria, who was about twelve or thirteen-years-old at the time it was created. The turban demonstrates the influence of other countries as various slaves came to the Netherlands and explorers would bring back new exotic artifacts and inventions. It's likely that this image was a tronie, Dutch 17th-century description of a 'head' painting that was not intended as a portrait.

The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicholas Tulp
Rembrandt 1632

Rembrandt was only 25 years old when he was commissioned to paint this group portrait, and was a newcomer to Amsterdam. This is a more complicated composition than it at first appears. Understandably, the focal point of the image is Dr. Tulp, the doctor who is shown displaying the flexors of the cadaver’s left arm. Rembrandt notes the doctor’s significance by showing him as the only person who wears a hat. Seven colleagues surround Dr. Tulp, and they look in a variety of directions—some gaze at the cadaver, some stare at the lecturer, and some peek directly at the viewer. Each face displays a facial expression that is deeply personal and psychological. The cadaver—a recently executed thief named Adriaen Adriaenszoon—lies nearly parallel to the picture plane. Viewing the illuminated body from his head to his feet brings into focus a book—likely Andreas Vesalius’s De humani corporis fabrica (Fabric of the Human Body, 1543)—propped up in the lower right corner. In all, Rembrandt shows nine distinct figures, but does so as if they are a unified group. All nine figures' names are written on the paper the gentleman in the back is holding.

Vase of Flowers in a Window
Ambrosius Bosschaert 1618
This painting of a colouful bouquet of thirty types of flowers is a masterly work by Ambrosius Bosschaert. He depicted the flowers meticulously, so that each one is easily recognisable. This painting provides an overview of the most beautiful flowers known to Bosschaert, including the tulip, which was still a rarity in Holland at the time. Bosschaert based his bouquet on separate sketches he had made throughout the year. This allowed him to compose a bouquet of flowers that, in real life, do not bloom at the same time. Floral still lifes were especially prominent in the early 1600s, and in their highly refined execution and in their subjects and symbolism were addressed to a cultivated audience. 

I did a lot of research on these Dutch floral still lifes in college and completely fell in love with them. Their attention to detail and symbolism could have me studying one painting for hours. Ambrosius Bosschaert was known as the best in this genre, so to see one of his paintings up close, in real life, was amazing.

Self Portrait
Rembrandt Van Rijn 1669
No seventeenth-century artist made as many self-portraits as Rembrandt did. This self-portrait dates from 1669, the year Rembrandt died, so it may be the last he painted. The expressive freedom of style shows that Rembrandt was certainly not exhausted at the end of his life. The way he painted the face with strong brushstrokes is remarkable. With thick layers of paint that are almost modeled, Rembrandt suggests a man of flesh and blood. This is a true masterpiece.

The Garden of Eden With the Fall of Man
Jan Brueghel I & Peter Paul Rubens c. 1615

This painting is by two famous Flemish masters: Rubens and Brueghel. They made several of this type of painting, which were intended as showpieces that combined the best of the two artists.
Although Brueghel was responsible for the composition, Rubens started the painting. Very sketchily, in thin paint, he painted Adam and Eve, the tree, the horse and the serpent. Then Brueghel took on the plants and animals, which he painted with encyclopedic precision in finishing paint.

After a very wonderful afternoon in the Hauge at the gorgeous Mauritshuis Museum, it was time to head back to the ship for dinner. It had been a very jam packed day and I was ready for a good meal and a good nights rest so I would be ready for the next day's adventure.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016


The next morning we woke up in the very unique city of Rotterdam.  I had no idea what to expect for this stop, Rotterdam is a very large, bustling city with some of the most intriguing architecture I have ever seen.  Those cube buildings in the first two photos are apartments.

We drove past most of the city's architecture on a bus tour, but we made a special stop at this one of a kind market.  It is ginormous, and has apartments all along it's outer edge, that's what those windows in the ceiling are.  The market is made up of dozens of different stalls ceiling all sorts of foods and flowers.  It would have been easy to spend hours in the maze of stalls, taking in all the amazing things from sale from the most gourmet pasty shops to basic every day grocers.  I wish I could have taken more pictures of this amazing place, but unfortunately I got very car sick and spent a majority of my time here looking for a coke to help settle my stomach.

After our city bus tour, we made it to the morning's final destination, Museum Boijmans.  This is one of the most fascinating museums I have ever visited.  It mixes art from some of the most beloved masters such as Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Monet, and Degas with more modern creators such as Dali, Mondrian, and Warhol as well as a few new contemporary artists.  I never knew what I was going to encounter as I entered a new gallery.  I hung out in the lobby for a while when we first arrived since I was feeling so sick.  So, I had plenty of time to contemplate this amazing coat check.  I first thought it was a modern art piece until I watched patrons enter and proceed to check in their coat.  

When I was feeling well enough to stand and slowly walk around, I made my way through the different galleries.  I loved being on my own, going at my own pace, enjoying the complete silence of each room, and having time to dwell on individual pieces of my choosing.  These are just a small collection of some of my favorites from this museum.

I try to create fantastic things, magical things, things like in a dream. The world needs more fantasy.  Our civilization is too mechanical.  We can make the fantastic real, and then it is more real than that which actually exists."    -Salvador Dali 1940

I am so in love with that quote from Salvador Dali, not only does it give his fantastic works a much deeper meaning, it also is an inspiration to be more like him and fill our world with beautiful, magical things.

A Couple With Their Heads Full of Clouds
Salvador Dali 1936

"Silhouettes of a couple with their heads full of clouds.  We know from photographs and remarks by Dali himself, that the cut-outs are himself and his wife Gala.  The objects on the table are repeated in an obvious visual rhyme, in small figures in the landscape, then again in the landscape at the back." 

When I walked into this gallery, I jumped back and gasped in surprised fright.  Even though the character peering up out of the floor was boxed in glass, I seriously had to stare at him for a minute or two to make sure he was indeed a work of art and not an actual person. The mannequin was so lifelike!  This is also a perfect example of how this museum mixed contemporary and classic art, such a unique place.


Little Dancer of Fourteen Years
Egar Degas 1180-1881 (1922)

"This mercilessly observed, 14 year old ballet dancer is the only sculpture that Degas exhibited during his lifetime. The original of 1881 was made of colored wax, and had real hair, ballet shoes, clothes and a silk ribbon.  Most critics were scandalized by such radical truth to life. After Degas's Death, 25 bronze casts were made and the sculpture became an icon of 19th century Realism." 

Poppies in a Vase
Claude Monet 1883

Le Port De Rotterdam
Paul Signac 1907

"The French painter Signac visited Rotterdam in 1906, and a year later he painted this panorama of it's port.  It is based on drawings he made on the spot. He added color to the composition with many small, adjacent dabs of mainly pinkish red and blue.  Signac assumed that the viewer's eye would automatically combine those unblended colors to form the desired intermediate tints."

The Lyrical 
Vasili Kandinsky 1911

"Kandinsky is regarded as the father of abstract art because he believed early on that color and line can touch us as deeply and directly as music. That idea lead to paintings without subject matter called 'Composition' or 'Improvisation'. Here he is on the threshold of that new art, although he still suggests an intended movement with recognizable symbols such as a horse, a rider and a tree."

Composition with Color Fields 
Piet Mondrian 1917

"In September 1917 Mondrian wrote to his colleague Van Doesburg to tell him that he had 'started on new things' that had advanced his work 'a little further'.  He was referring to a small group of paintings of colored rectangles on a light background. They are surprisingly poetic, partly because of the delicate colors, and would soon make way for severer work"

I found it thrilling to see such an early work of Mondrian's, there are definitely characteristics of his well known, and beloved style, yet the colors are so light, and pastel.  It was fascinating to see how his style developed from works like the one above.

Composition No. II
Piet Mondrian 1929

"Straight, black lines with a few squares of primary colors between them. Contemporaries found it hard to get used to this rigid equilibrium, but a Mondrian like this one is now a classic. Interestingly, it was immediately bought for Museum Boymans by a few of the artist's admirers."

White Aphrodisiac Telephone
Salvador Dali 1936

"In the 1930s, Edward James was Salvador Dali's most important patron. He and his wife, Gala, stayed at James' country house in West Dean on several occasions. In 1936 they stayed at his house in Wimpole street, where Dali made the celebrated telephone with the lobster receiver, a creepy fantasy that makes the prospect of receiving or making a call anything but inviting."

A collection of Rubens.  We need to bring back his idea of the ideal, curvaceous woman.

I found this piece of contemporary work endlessly fascinating.  There wasn't any gallery card, that I could see, that gave a title or any explanation of the piece.  It spanned the length of a window lined hallway which made photographing it in it's entirety nearly impossible.  There were so many details that I wanted to document, but ended up with just a few photos that captured it's essence.

The museum itself is a gorgeous building with beautiful and serene gardens surrounding it.  I would have loved to been able to stay and have a calm and relaxing lunch in this cafe, while viewing the sun bathed gardens.

When I saw that they had a 17th Century Dutch exhibit, I spent a good half an hour navigating the maze of galleries to make sure I found it before we had to leave.  I made it with just a few minutes to spare.  The main attraction I desperately wanted to see was their nautilus cup! I have said it a million times on this blog, but for those who haven't read about it, I wrote my college thesis on 17th Dutch still lives and how the nautilus cups represented the power and domination of the East India Trading Company over the oriental colonies with which they traded.  So I will forever have a love for these amazing and unique works of art.

Next to the cup, was this delicately carved and elaborately embellished coconut. In all of my research during college, I never encountered a description or explanation of these types of ornaments. A quick and limited search on the internet leads me to believe that these were used as flasks by Dutch sailors up until the 19th century.  This is definitely on the more extravagant side of the ones I saw on the web, thus it must have belonged to a high ranking officer, or someone of equal status.

Something that I did come across in my college research and even included in my thesis, were curiosity cabinets kept by the wealthy upper class Dutch during the 16th and 17th centuries.  They would collect all sorts of foreign "curiosities" from the trading companies, and display them in these ornate cabinets to show their wealth and culture.  I found this one, pictured above, to be the most beautiful of the ones the museum had.

I love how it has the emblem of the tulip, another craze that happened around the same time in Holland was Tulip-mania, were bulbs of exotic Tulips were sold for up to the equivalent of a million dollars.  So it makes sense that the wealth would want tulips to decorate their curiosity cabinet.

There was a clear case with some of the elegant pieces the upper Dutch class might keep in their Curiosity Cabinets, I found this glass dragon to be particularly intriguing,  I would have wanted it for my cabinet if I were alive during that exciting time in Dutch history.

After our visit to this one of a kind museum, we headed back to the ship to get some lunch and a nap before heading to the Hague to see some extremely famous works of art, in one of the most stunning museums I have ever been in.  Stay tuned for images from that wonderful experience!