One of the attractions of my visits to Holland, has been the art exhibitions that are on – each time a different one, on widely diverse themes and artists. The country, has a rich history in both the performing and visual arts. It is the land of great artists dating from the 14th century through the Golden Age of Dutch art in the 17th century (Hals, Vermeer, Rambrandt et al), van Gogh and the impressionists in the 19th century and a profusion of 20th century artists such as Piet Mondrian. The art is highlighted through a large number of museums, and these put up exhibitions all the time. Although, there are misgivings regarding the cutbacks in Government support, they seem to find resources to constantly upgrade their museums. Of course, entrance fees are not cheap and the large summer tourist traffic, ensures fairly heavy footfalls. For the locals who are interested in the arts, there is a provision to buy an ‘Museumkart’ which provided unlimited access to all museums across the country.
Although Den Haag (The Hague) is familiar to most as the capital of the country and the seat of the International Court of Justice, it also has a number of great museums. On this visit, I planned a day trip to Den Haag to see the Prins Mauritshuis, and the Gemeentemuseum. I have seen both many years ago, but I knew that the Prins Mauritshuis had undergone recent renovations and saw that there was Anton Corbijn exhibition on at the Gemeentemuseum. While talking to a friend the day before the planned trip, she told me about the Panorama Mesdag, which she recommended highly.
A half hour on the train and 20′ walk through the Central district took me to the Mauritshuis. Housed is a an old 17th century mansion, it is officially called the Royal Cabinet of Paintings and has the largest collection of the Dutch Golden Age. But what the renovation has done is remarkable – they have created a large underground space for a modern foyer, rest rooms, mueseum shop complex, which runs under the street and connects to the building across the street which has been added to the musuem. This houses a lovely cafetaria, exhibition space, and areas for workshops, demos etc. And they have put in modern lifts, not in any way disturbing the original building at all – brilliant!! The collection of course, is fantastic and houses among its large collection, Vermeer’s “Girl with a pearl earring’ (Made famous among non-art aficionados by the 2003 movie with Scarlett Johansson)
And this was a wonderful surprise – and I had never heard of this Dutch late 19th century artist. As you climb a flight a stairs, you step into this magical seaside village which surrounds you 360 degrees. It is billed as the largest painting in Holland, and could be competitive for size, even globally I think. But its exquisitely detailed depiction of an ordinary seaside village day is amazing – the light, the sense of movement all giving you the feeling that you are part of the scene. I was glad that I had been able to see this. Of course, by this time, it was too late to take in the Gemeentemuseum.