Thursday, May 13, 2010


I’ve only been to Amsterdam once. The standout memories are the works of two painters, Rembrandt and VanGogh. Last night Anne and I watched a DVD, Simon Schama’s 'The Power of Art'. It showed Rembrandt’s House. We had visited it during our brief stay in that city.

The famous painter owned it and lived there from 1639 till 1660. It has reconstruction of his living quarters and workshop with some of his etchings on display. It is like all reconstructions. But it does give a feel for the painter’s way of life and reveals his status in his heyday. In his latter years he experienced personal tragedy and financial hardship. But earlier he could foot it with the successful merchants.

Schama’s programme concentrated on Rembrandt’s last great work – the 'Conspiracy of Claudius Civilis', a piece commissioned for the new town hall. The work was rejected – it didn’t suit the taste of the affluent burghers. Only a powerful remnant remains.

But I remember being bowled over by 'The Night Watch' in the Rikjsmuseum. I’d send reproductions, usually in darkened old drawing rooms, but the vibrancy of the actual painting took my breath away. It’s colossal size, use of light and shadow, and above all a sense of motion and emotion, all combine to form a breath-taking work.

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