Our flight from Berlin to Amsterdam was at the crack of dawn and we were transported from the frenetic electric energy of Germany’s capital to the serene green pastures and beautiful light of Holland. Our Airbnb in Holland is located in Naarden, about 30 minutes east of Amsterdam so we can enjoy both city and rural views and days travelling by trains and bikes.
We thought it would be interesting to highlight some of the incredible art we’ve been fortunate enough to see in the Netherlands, with what likely inspired its artists and has certainly left a ‘Dutch’ imprint on us.
Markets play a big role in any European city and town we have visited over the years and have always been great fodder for photos, people watching, buying and trying local fare and treats!
When we visited ‘sHertogenbosch, locally known as Den Bosch, we happened upon the small yet fascinating Slager Museum, which houses paintings from three generations of Slager family artists. Below are three examples, depicting local markets which impressively appear and disappear in the squares.
We spent a good hour wandering through the Albert Cuyp Markt in de Pijp, a neighbourhood just south of central Amsterdam, and loved the freshly made Armenian spinach-and-feta-filled pancakes and of course delighted in the local thin caramel-centred waffle cookies 😉
Last Sunday we ventured north of Amsterdam to the monthly IJ-Hallen flea market which was a sight to behold!! Row upon row of tables/stalls set up with clothes, household goods, fur coats, old cameras, and suitcases. Just about anything under the sun, and hoards of shoppers and onlookers 😉
From our home-base of Naarden, we spent a number of days biking through the neighbouring towns and hamlets where green pastures fed cows and sheep, water ways and canals divided up the land and huge elephant-trunk trees lined the cycle paths.
On one of our bike tours, we visited the Singer Museum in Laren where we happened upon two exhibitions: the Late Impressionists and En Plein Air, both of which had incredible paintings including some rural views of long ago.
An incredible afternoon was also spent at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. Van Gogh’s detailed letters, mostly to his brother Theo, impart a great deal of information about this Dutch artist’s process and reasons for creating, in 10 years, so many “gifts” to the world. The collection in the museum is amazing, including many self-portraits, and though the rural scenes of his below are not of rural Holland they made me admire his homeland in a deeper way.
Flowers, of course!
Holland is known world-wide for its flowers and though we were visiting in the fall, we did appreciate the splendour of what the local flora could be. We saw many homes with colourful displays in their street-front windows, and their manicured lawns and gardens definitely revealed the importance of flowers in the culture.
Pastures and flowers exude life and beauty in the Netherlands, while another quintessentially Dutch characteristic is the architecture. We saw many beautiful examples of both the tall, narrow canal city houses with their tilting facades, and the time-worn (seemingly heavy) thatched roofed cottages. We loved the reflections of the buildings off the canal waters, the little bridges joining cobblestone streets, the light dappled through the plain trees in the squares, and the majestic oaks and weeping willows shading the yards.
At the Slager Museum we saw Marie Slager’s thatch-roofed cottages in ‘Dutch Houses’ (bottom right below). We also saw Monet’s green house in ‘Canal in Zaandam’, (top right below), at the Singer Museum in Laren.
South-west of Amsterdam in Delft, Sara was anxious to visit the Vermeer Centre. Johannes Vermeer is one of her favourite Dutch artists and the chronological display of his works, though replicas, was astounding! Unlike Van Gogh’s, very little is known of Vermeer’s art process and education, especially under whom he studied. The centre offers hypotheses and detailed explanations of the myriad ways this artist used (and was fascinated by) light.
His “The Little Street” painting (left below), shows a great example of some of the brick architecture of Holland.
One of the interesting effects Vermeer uses in his many paintings of interiors is répoussoir, from the French meaning to ‘push back’, which lends depth to his pieces. Although his figures occupy centre stage, they are never in the foreground…there is almost always something ‘in the way’, often darker than the background. His ‘Art of Painting’ (below left) was apparently one of his favourites.
Another place to visit in Delft is the Royal Delft factory where they still make the traditional blue and white ceramics. The tour explains the legacy of this centuries-old enterprise, and displays include a life-size blue-and-white tile painting of Rembrandt’s (that other famous Dutch artist!) ‘The Night Watchman’. 2018 is the 365th anniversary of the Royal Delft brand, so every day this year, an invited guest is asked to paint a tile and together all 365 tiles will be commemorated together as a mosaic.
Although we weren’t able to spend too much time inside houses, other than our Airbnb, we did have a bonus visit with a friend of Doug’s in Breda in the south, where we enjoyed a family dinner in her gorgeous home with 3m ceilings!!
And to wrap up: Cows, lots of cows, to make tasty, artisanal, Dutch cheese 🙂