Saturday, November 8, 2014


We were so smitten with Prague that it took a day or so for us to embrace Amsterdam.

The famed word sculpture in front of the Rijksmuseum which is a stones throw away from the Van Gogh Museum

The canals and bridges are charming. We enjoyed and learned a great deal about them on a canal tour

Our studio apartment was close to the pretty much everything. Amsterdam is not that big, with the population of the city proper at around 800,000. On our first morning we walked through ...

Vondel Park
... to arrive at the Van Gogh Museum which is modern, well laid out and features many of his significant pieces as well as works by his contemporaries and others. It was grand to see The Potato Eaters, The Bedroom (the one painted in 1888 - he painted it again in 1889) and Wheatfield with Crows. I was a tad disappointed to find that The Yellow House was out on loan.
Photography, except for this wallpaper at the museum's entrance, is prohibited

Wonderful to see my favourite of his many self portraits. I was able to revoke the no photography rule by snapping a picture of it in a publication, right there in front of the audio rental gal ...
Self-Portrait, Spring-Summer 1887, Paris, oil on canvas 16" x 12"

Bicycles rule in this city. At first the cycling lane appears to be a part of the sidewalk, but you quickly learn to stay off of it!  We thought we'd rent bikes, but when we saw just how many cyclists there are, all weaving and racing at break neck speeds, we decided that was not a good idea for us.

Clearly, an Amsterdam highlight was choosing to visit the Rijksmuseum on the one day of the year when they host The Big Draw ... something I had no knowledge of.  At opening time, we arrived to find this thrilling scene in the atrium ... 

Anyone was invited to draw. I went straight to an easel as though pulled there by some magnetic force. 

Speaking with the facilitator, Wilma Caris, can you tell I'm excited?

Considering how rusty I am, working with a live model, the drawing is all right

Charcoal drawing of the model at the Rijksmuseum, 25" x 19" October 12th, 2014

Atop my list (and everyone else's visiting the Rijksmuseum) is Rembrandt's Night Watch. This imposing masterpiece makes a powerful impact from your first glimpse of it, at the opposite end of the long Hall of Honour, until it is only a foot or so in front of you.  Commemorating the reopening of the museum (in 2013) after a decade of renovations there is an incredible flash mob enactment of the Night Watch, here.  Again, I'm in awe of the timing to visit Amsterdam. Maggie says that - and this is wonderful - I am living in the flow.

This is a museum of the highest calibre right up there with the Louvre. Not only does it house a truly remarkable collection of 6000 paintings featuring works from the Dutch Golden Age, they boast almost 1000 sculptures. They've got weapons and model ships, doll houses and oh, the architecture, the stained glass windows of the Great Hall and the library all add up to making it a virtual cathedral of art.

Night Watch at the end of the Hall of Honour
Here too a painting I had hoped to see, The Jewish Bride, was out on loan.
In Rembrandt Square, beneath a sculpture of the artist, there are bronzes of the 22 figures from The Night Watch painting

The Rembrandt House Museum was so much more than we expected!

On Rembrandt's doorstep
The free personal audio devises are exemplary and the demonstrations first rate. In the print studio, using a plate made by the Dutch mint, from one of Rembrandt's etchings, a woman made an etching on the spot ... 
In the painting studio a gal showed how oil pigments were mixed. Of particular fascination to me was learning how lead white was made and that it took two months to do so.
Another home turned museum is the Anne Frank House. Fearing it would be a grisly read I avoided Anne Frank's Diary until this past winter. Although sad it was not morbid. When I'd finished, I knew I would have to visit the house. The line ups are insane. Before leaving home, Bill purchased my ticket online which enabled me to skip the line. Plus he bought me the add on of the half hour talk prior to the tour.
Unfortunately the Anne Frank House was undergoing exterior refurbishing under the tarp

For once I was grateful for the crowds - 5000 people a day file through the home. Passing through the original moveable bookcase, sandwiched between people, was decidedly eerie. To have been there alone would have been emotionally overwhelming.

There is an excellent 2.5 minute video clip here which tells the story of going into hiding. I was surprised to see empty rooms. Immediately after the arrest of the eight people in hiding, the Nazi's ordered the annex emptied. When the secret annex became a museum, in 1960, Otto Frank insisted that the rooms remain empty. Temporarily and
only for the purpose of photography, the rooms were furnished. If you explore The Anne Frank House Online you'll see them thus. As well, there are virtual tours. This one of the stairway will give you a sense of the space. Once the woman has finished talking (very short) click on (.) to open the staircase ... and now imagine being there with a solid line of people in front of and behind you!

A portrait of Anne Frank in an Amsterdam, commercial gallery window
One night, we timidly stepped into the Red Light District where I had my eyes opened to what legalised prostitution looks like.
We were not brave or foolish enough to photograph anything more than this canal image of the Red Light District

Returning to our studio apartment at night we passed Posthumus and returned the very next morning. I not only reveled in the shop's products, I admired the intricate and elaborate designs of Miranda that are featured there.

Bill investigated Vliger, a paper shop. There we thought we'd reached nirvana. As I had secured a mailing tube for my Rijksmuseum drawing, we indulged in purchasing some of their divine papers ... should have bought more than we did!
If the train station looks remarkably like the Rijksmuseum it's because the same architect designed both!
October 15th, farewell Amsterdam!
I'm glad I was able to get my head around leaving Prague enough to fully enjoy Amsterdam's cultural wealth.


  1. What a fabulous city, and an amazing cultural centre. The experience of drawing at the Rijksmuseum must have been magical, and the Red Light District a dramatic offset to that. I can feel the combination of sadness and claustrophobia in the Anne Frank House portion and your gratitude for the crowds there. This is a wonderful post, all the links and the sense of travelling there with you. xoxo

    1. Many thanks, Win. Writing this I got to relive the experience and truly understand the rich experience I gained!