Travels with Tim and Lisa

"If my discoveries are other people's commonplaces I cannot help it – for me they retain a momentous freshness" (Elizabeth Bowen)

Archive for the ‘Art Galleries’ Category

Royal Museums, Brussels, June 12th 2015

Posted by Lisa Hill on June 13, 2015

If you’re my age or thereabouts, you remember learning a poem that begins like this at school:

About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters; how well, they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along…

The poem is called Musee des Beaux Arts and it’s by W. H. Auden.  It goes on to describe the fall of Icarus, as painted by Brueghel which shows that no one takes any notice of the amazing event – a boy falling out of the sky. The painting is in the Musée Old Masters, part of the complex of Royal Museums here in Brussels.

Old Masters Museum, The Fall of Icarus (Breughel)

Old Masters Museum, The Fall of Icarus (Breughel)

It was one of my favourite poems at school because I loved the line about how the dogs go on with their doggy life, but there are two English teachers in our group who said they didn’t know it, so I guess nobody teaches it any more. What a shame!

There were so many lovely artworks in this museum!
We mainly focussed on early Flemish and Netherlandish art but there are a couple of later works in this slideshow:

 

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After a break for coffee in the cafe, we checked out the Musee Fin-de-Siècle.  These were interesting because there were quite a few Bolshie paintings and a couple of the sculptures looked almost like Stalinist art which made me wonder about Belgian politics at the end of the century.  Were they pro socialism??

Anyway, my favourite from this Fin-de-Siècle collection is the one called Listening to the Music of Schumann.  Does she like it, or not??

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We had a delicious buffet lunch at the Brasserie (ordered in my best French!!) and then we set off round the corner to the Museum of Musical Instruments. We confined ourselves to the second floor where they had the most fantastic collection of classical instruments I’ve ever seen. I’m sorry that the photos are not very good, everything was in glass cabinets and there were lights shining everywhere, but still, I hope you can see the amazing shapes and sizes of the early and experimental versions of the instruments our orchestras use today.

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Tomorrow (yikes!) we have to be on deck at 8:30 for a day trip to Wallonia. Will do my best to report in at the end of the day…

Posted in Art Galleries, Belgium, Brussels, Europe 2015, Museums | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

Lier, June 11th 2015

Posted by Lisa Hill on June 12, 2015

Tonight we’re in Brussels, just round the corner from the European Parliament (in session, which explains the massive security force and the traffic jams), but we travelled her via the small town of Lier, not far from the border of the Netherlands and Belgium.   Although they speak Flemish, the town feels more Dutch than Holland does because they go out of their way not to speak English or French, and Flemish is just Dutch pronounced in a different way and with some slightly different words.

We had planned to visit the Lier Cathedral but (much like everything else in the town) they close very promptly at noon for lunch, so they threw us out after five minutes.  Still we were able to scamper around and take some nice photos, including the grandiose silver reliquary of St Thingamabob which features in the town’s Big Deal procession every October.  BTW I think that tombstone includes the body of Johanna The Mad, one of the more interesting of this region’s women…

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Van Ouytsels Koffiehoekje

Van Ouytsels Koffiehoekje

We had a nice lunch at a restaurant called Van Ouytsels Koffiehoekje. Like the church there were no concessions to non-Dutch speaking visitors – everything was written in Dutch. But we made a reasonable effort at translating and only needed a little help from the very helpful staff, and Tim enjoyed a local beer called Caves which we wouldn’t have known about without her recommendation.

And then we went to the Brueghel exhibition at the municipal museum.  Apparently the major Brueghel gallery at Antwerp has been closed for renovations for ages, and won’t re-open for ages more, so they have farmed out their artworks far and wide, and some of them are in Lier for the duration.   Not all of them are Brueghels, some are done by the Elder’s Offspring, and some by other enthusiasts, but whatever, we enjoyed the exhibition immensely.

Two versions of Proverbs (Breughel, maybe)

Two versions of Proverbs (Breughel, maybe)

The guide was a wealth of information, especially about this picture called Proverbs.  There were actually two versions of it, almost exactly the same except that one was darker than the other, maybe because it needs cleaning,  but I have no idea which one was which, and frankly I don’t think it matters.  Tim looked it up on Google afterwards and apparently there are over 100 depictions of old proverbs in it, though she only told us about 25 of them or so.  If you are like me and you just thought that Breughel was an artist who did beaut scenes of cheery peasant life with a bit of naughtiness thrown in, then it is a bit of a revelation to discover that he is much cleverer than that and his work is really sophisticated in intent and execution.

There were lots of other lovely pictures to look at as well, though the less said about the contemporary photo exhibition, the better.  Apparently they feel that they can’t just show these Breughels for three years, so they commissioned a local to interpret the concept of ‘procession’ in photos, and the only word I can think of describe them is lame.  I almost resented being made to spend time having them explained to me, except that I understood that the guide was being loyal to her local artistic community…

These pictures aren’t named because the gallery very cunningly hasn’t named them so that you can’t tell which are real Brueghels and which ones aren’t.  Maybe when I get home I will do some Google image searches, but in the meantime, enjoy!

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Posted in Art Galleries, Belgium, Cathedrals & churches, Europe 2015, Lier | Tagged: , | 3 Comments »

Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam, Wednesday June 10th 2015

Posted by Lisa Hill on June 11, 2015

Another day, another wonderful art gallery, this time in Rotterdam.

The Museum Boijmans van Beuningen is a little different because it is inclusive of art from outside the Netherlands, and it has quite a bit of modern art, but truth be told, although I quite often like modern art, I tend to find it banal after I’ve been admiring the art of earlier times.  Even major impressionists look a bit limp after looking at Rembrandt and Vermeer, so it’s best left for another day, IMO.

We have to pack for our departure for Brussels tomorrow, so without further ado, here are the highlights of today’s artworks!

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Posted in Art Galleries, Europe 2015, Netherlands, Rotterdam 2015, Uncategorized | Tagged: | 8 Comments »

MC Escher Museum, The Hague, Tuesday June 9th 2015

Posted by Lisa Hill on June 10, 2015

Even if you’re not a great fan of MC Escher, the museum is good fun, especially on the top floor where the young and the young-at-heart can play with optical illusions of all kinds.

The house used to belong to the Queen but I am not sure whether the furnishings and more traditional paintings are hers or the Eschers’…

What I liked best of all was the amazing chandeliers –  watch the slideshow to see how stunning they are!

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Posted in Art Galleries, Europe 2015, Museums, Netherlands, The Hague | Tagged: | 4 Comments »

Mauritshuis, The Hague, Tuesday June 9th, 2015

Posted by Lisa Hill on June 10, 2015

The Hague is an interesting place to visit en route to Delft.  There is a large square somewhat reminiscent of the one at St Mark’s in Venice, but the wind was brisk and cold so the chairs and tables were mostly empty.  (The indefatigable cyclists were undeterred, but they are not as feral here as they are in Amsterdam where you cannot relax and stroll about at any time because you risk being knocked for six if you don’t keep your wits about you).

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My goodness, we’ve had some excellent guides on this tour!  I am sorry to say that I didn’t catch the name of the wonderful young woman who showed us the highlights of the Mauritshuis, because she really was exceptional.  Knowledgeable, excellent English and witty too, she really brought this grand palace alive.  Once again there is no way my photos can capture how lovely the paintings are, but these slideshows are the best I can do.  I hope they are big enough to see, the internet is slow here in Delft so I’ve had to reduce the file size quite a bit.

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Posted in Art Galleries, Europe 2015, The Hague | Tagged: | 3 Comments »

Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, Monday June 8th, 2015

Posted by Lisa Hill on June 9, 2015

Today was one of those heavenly days I’m sure I’ll remember all my life. It joins my days at the Hermitage, the Louvre, the National Gallery in London and the Prado as a feast of great art, beyond any power of mine to describe in words.

The Rijksmuseum has generously put its works online and you can see them all on their website, but the slide show below is just a small selection of the ones that took my eye.

First of all, from the entrance hall, the lovely stained glass windows celebrating artists and philosophers:

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Then from the second floor, covering 1600-1700, in galleries we explored by ourselves:

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Then, the highlight of the day, the Vermeers, with expert guide Drs Kees Kaldenbach. If you visit Amsterdam, make sure you get into one of his tours, he is fantastic.

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And then, a period that enchants me, mostly medieval art from 1100-1600:

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And finally some odd little bits and pieces from the Dutch colonial past:

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Posted in Amsterdam, Art Galleries, Europe 2015, Netherlands | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Courtauld Gallery, London, June 3 2015

Posted by Lisa Hill on June 3, 2015

We had a leisurely breakfast at the Russell Square café overlooking the park, and then set off for the Courtauld Gallery, now housed at Somerset House (the building that originally housed my birth certificate, when it was where births, marriages and deaths were registered.)
The building is gorgeous, with an especially stunning staircase:

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We’re just off to dinner now, but will add some of my photos of the artworks when I get back. (Unless I drink too much champagne…)

….
Just back from dinner at the Cosmoba Cucina Italiana – nothing special, but a tasty meal and the service was friendly and efficient:)

Here’s some photos of artworks I especially liked at the Courtauld:

Update, a bit later: Hmm, the slideshow isn’t working.  It’s not the effects of champagne, I didn’t have any.  Maybe the images are too big and take too long to load.  Maybe the ISP here at the hotel isn’t very good.  I’ll try again tomorrow.

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Posted in Art Galleries, UK 2015 | Tagged: | 5 Comments »

Alte Nationalgalerie and Neues Museum, Berlin

Posted by Lisa Hill on September 5, 2012

After a cafe lunch we’d best forget, we plodded on to the Alte Nationalgalerie which is a collection of Neoclassical, Romantic, and Impressionist artworks.  I’m not sure whether it was we were becoming a bit footsore or if perhaps it was indigestion, but the artworks here did not take my fancy the way they did in the other museums and I took hardly any pictures.

The bust of Goethe will interest my bookish friends, (and I’m pleased to say that I have finally read something by this author: you can read my review of The Sorrows of Young Werther over on my ANZ LitLovers blog). There were some lovely sculptures of the sort that people had in their formal gardens, but they seemed similar to ones I’ve seen elsewhere so I didn’t photograph them.  And the Impressionists were quite disappointing.  There weren’t very many of them, and the ones they had weren’t especially fine.  I thought that some of them might be in need of restoration because the colours seemed a bit dull, or maybe they’ve overdone it with the special lighting to protect the artworks, at the expense of being able to see them properly?

But the painting that intrigued me was this one: for some reason, some of the figures have been blanked out.  Who were they, and why was this done?  Did some nut-case do it, or was it some sort of vandalistic political correctness?  A couple of French women in the gallery were very indignant about it, so I wondered if the figures were French heroes?  Anyway, I photographed the information caption in the hope that someone who reads this will recognise the painting and be able to enlighten me.  It seems such a strange thing to do, to display a painting that has been mutilated like this! (Update, after a Google search: it’s not a defaced painting at all, it’s just not finished! See here and scroll down to the paragraph about Frederick the Great’s Address to His Generals Before the Battle of Leuthen (1859-61). )

Our last stop was the  Neues Museum, which specialises in Egyptian antiquities.  Once again Tim was in seventh heaven, especially when we finally got to see Nefertiti in all her glory.  For some bizarre reason, although you’re allowed to photograph everything else (as long as you don’t use flash), photos of Nefertiti are forbidden – which is daft, because there’s a gazillion images of her on the web anyway.  She’s displayed in a gallery all by herself, and it’s quite uncanny the way she seems to look out at people like us who are gawking at her.

But what I liked best was the early examples of writing – it never ceases to amaze me that these were somehow translated so that we can understand what these early scribes were recording. The funerary objects were very interesting too, and some of the sculptures of children were very moving – their expressions are very sad, showing that human emotion, especially grief, hasn’t changed at all over the millenia.

We finished up our time in Berlin at the tapas bar of the Melia Hotel.  This is an excellent hotel, and if you are keen to see the museums it is ideal because it’s within easy walking distance and it’s very central to everything else as well.  The service was great, the people friendly and the dinner we had in the restaurant was the meal of the trip.

That may change now that we’re in Paris of course!  Tim has booked us into a very nice restaurant for tomorrow night!

Posted in Art Galleries, Berlin 2012, Museums | Tagged: | 3 Comments »

Lavish interiors, in the Winter Palace at the Hermitage

Posted by Lisa Hill on August 30, 2012

One last post from me tonight, to share some of my photos from the Winter Palace at the Hermitage.  As we all know, all the Royals of Europe competed with each other to have the most lavish palaces and the most splendid art collections, and one thing we can certainly thank the Bolsheviks for is that they nationalised Catherine the Great’s extravaganza and added to it by nationalising all the other private collections in Russia as well.  (Mind you, they flogged off a fair bit of it when they were short of money most notably to American galleries and museums).

There are heaps of lovely books about the art works in the Hermitage and you can also see them online so I’ve confined myself to the interiors: massive chandeliers, some so big and heavy that none of us wanted to stand underneath them); tables inlaid with precious stones including one with grapes depicted in rubies; a gold clock in the shape of a huge bird which represents the ‘flight of time’; and massive urns made in precious stones such as jasper and lapis lazuli (which used to be placed lower on the ground so that they could be filled with chocolates for guests to help themselves).   There are rooms decorated with gold columns, frescoes, and tapestries, and also a ‘hall of heroes’ commemorating the great victory over Napoleon – where you will notice some green baize empty spaces amongst the portraits.  These empty spaces are those of heroes who died of wounds, and in the days before photography, not every man had a portrait suitable for hanging in a gallery such as this, but they commemorated their names anyway so that they wouldn’t be forgotten.  (The Duke of Wellington has his portrait in this gallery too, which pleased the British tourists among our group).

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Posted in Art Galleries, Museums, Palaces, Russia 2012, St Petersburg 2012 | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Historic moments – in the Hermitage

Posted by Lisa Hill on August 30, 2012

I’ll bet many tourists walk through a small and (by the standards of the rest of this lavish Palace) somewhat nondescript room in the Hermitage without having any idea that they are on the site of one of the most momentous events in the 20th century…

Small dining room where Lenin’s Bolsheviks stormed the Provisional government

Source: Virtual Excursions, Hermitage Museum

This is the ‘small dining room’ in the Winter Palace where in 1917 the Provisional Government of Nicholas II met.  (See the photo at left). This Provisional Government was a token effort by Nicholas to meet the demands for political reform, but it had no real power because he simply revoked any reforms that they made if he didn’t like what they had decided.   It certainly didn’t meet the demands of Lenin’s Bolsheviks and so on the 7th of October, they entered the palace from the main entrance (at right) and the west side and captured the Provisional Government as they met in this dining room.

Over on the mantelpiece there is a clock, stopped at ten past two, because that was the actual moment when the October Revolution began.  There is a plaque next to it which explains the significance of the room, but because it’s in Russian, most tourists won’t realise where they are unless they have a tour guide or (presumably) a guide book.  (Actually, the Hermitage is pretty good with signage – a lot of paintings and artefacts are captioned in both Russian and English but not this room).

It was an amazing experience to be standing right where one of the most significant events in the history of the 20th century took place!

Posted in Art Galleries, Historic buildings, Museums, Palaces, Russia 2012, St Petersburg 2012 | 1 Comment »