Sitting as I am now, at the close of this warm spring day, in a café in the Vondelpark in Amsterdam, I can hardly believe I woke up in London this morning.
My father wanted me to add the Louvre to my itinerary. I argued that going to Paris was a separate trip as I couldn’t squeeze Paris into a few days. Loving a good debate, as my family does, he quipped that if time was an issue I could at least spend 24hrs in Amsterdam and see ‘The Night Watch’ – so a deal was struck and here I am… and so glad to be – thanks Papa.
I have ordered a Dutch beer – sorry no detail as the menu is gone and I can’t remember which one it was – but it is GOOD. I also ordered a snack plate and it has arrived too… I bite into one of the items and it appears to be a deep fried spring roll filled with a fondue type cheese OMG – this is so good – salads for the rest of the trip – promise to self.
I spent this afternoon in the Rijksmuseum in loving awe of Rembrandt. Viewing Rembrandt alongside his 17C Dutch contemporaries is really interesting and serves to highlight his genius further. This is because his contemporaries are all confident and highly skilled masters in various areas of portraiture, still life and landscape; Hals, Vermeer, Van Ruisdael, Van Goyen, Kalf. But still Rembrandt stands out. He can do it all. I want to say that is the intense light sources and contrasting shadows that sets him apart and yes this is part of it - but it is also his inventive handling of the paint, the variety of brushstrokes, the dynamic compositions and diagonal devices, detail in the garments … and his humanity. The certain something is not very tangible – though it is intensely felt. One gets the impression that Rembrandt experienced life to the edge and back several times.
Now having said that, Vermeer’s paintings nearly bring me to tears with their quiet beauty. Much is being said in his works but it is like a covert love letter, a secret that he wants us to know but is not telling all just yet.
My parents have a small reproduction of ‘The Milkmaid’ hanging in the dining room of our family home – the image has been with me from childhood and it is like seeing an old friend to see the original in front of me.