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 ‘Belgium’ 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 »