Today, I saw Rembrandt’s Night Watch at the Rijksmuseum.
There are moments for which we spend all our lives waiting, and there are moments for which we don’t even know we’re waiting.
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The Rijksmuseum’s undergoing a massive renovation, so the masterpieces of the collection have been put on display in the Philips wing. I’m immensely thankful that I’m in the midst of the Baroque Cycle while I visit this place. It’s providing me with an amazing context for this place and the short period in which it became the center of the world.
That said, this is the most confusing city I’ve ever walked in, even worse than Boston. I’m not sure what it is, but I lose track of street names almost instantly, and barely recognize previously traversed intersections (a key method of finding one’s way around). The sheer number of canals has something to do with it, of course: something that, in a single instance, should be an easy landmark, multiplied becomes confusion.
I’ll probably catch hell for this, but I didn’t visit the Van Gogh Museum, around the corner from the Rijksmuseum. I used to feel quite passionate about Van Gogh’s paintings, but that’s just not the case for me anymore. When I look at reproductions of his work, nothing awakens in me. I recognize the genius of his work, but I’ve somehow lost the enthusiasm I once had for it.
Maybe my past enthusiasm for Van Gogh tied more into the biography and my old identity as Misunderstood, Partially Insane Artist. As I’ve grown into a different world, that vision of color and shape doesn’t resonate in me. I’m drawn more to the darknesses and ambiguities of Rembrandt’s best work.
Perhaps it has something to do with why I loathe most modern art. Maybe this is it: I don’t like the Lowest College Denominator context to which Van Gogh’s been reduced. The cheap clones, the too-easy “I don’t need training! I’m expressing myself!” method that many visual artists employ: maybe that’s what Van Gogh’s come to represent in my psyche. Not that he was practitioner of that method, but that yahoo-artists use him as a champion.
Or maybe I’m just getting older and my classics-background means more to me.
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Walking through the “Rembrandt & his pupils” section of the museum, I thought about how much it must’ve sucked to be Hals, van Hootch, et al., painting in the time and place of Rembrandt. Doing your best work during a time of someone else’s genius must be a major bummer. The obvious version of this is that Amadeus movie/play, but from what I gather, the relationship between Mozart and Salieri was more complicated than the fictionalized version.
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Last night, I walked around in the Leidseplein for a bit. Lots of bars, restaurants, shops, etc. Here’s a funny-looking building. I didn’t have my map with me, so I didn’t know how near or far I was from the Red Light district. I thought I might be close, because I saw numerous women who were absolutely phenomenally/pneumatically built, dressed in some of the most sex-oriented clothing I’d ever seen in public. When I looked at the map this morning, I realized I was nowhere near that section of town, and that some women in Amsterdam just dress like that.
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Some pictures from this afternoon’s jaunt to the museum:
The view from a canal near my hotel. When the Meridien Apollo’s website said that the hotel had a view of five canals, I thought that meant it was pretty amazingly located. Now I realize that, in Amsterdam, you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting five canals.
Still, it’s a nice hotel, and in a pretty quiet location, which is good for me.
Here’s a section of the Rijksmuseum.
Thank you, sir! May I have another?
Same place, different side.
A statue on the grounds, commemorating the back strain suffered by the guys who had to move it there.
Always with the museum pix!
At least we’re coming up to the entrance.
I didn’t want to use the flash, for fear of scaring the 10 million Japanese tourists in front of me. (Note: as a goof, I took a photo of a totally dull building this afternoon, because a ton of Japanese tourists were walking by. They immediately stopped and began taking pictures of the same building.)
I got to the museum when this guy was getting his “uniform” on. I gave him a euro for dressing like a homo.
Not many people know that Rembrandt was also a killer ‘boarder.
The big concert hall.
They have these strange birds here, which have white bills, black feathers, and black eyes, and look like they have no faces. I’ll try to get a better pic later. Sadly, I made this observation and I haven’t even tried the hash yet.