Sunday, July 10, 2016

Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll

When I went to Amsterdam I wasn't sure what I was getting myself into.  I chose it as a destination because of the IB training that I've already mentioned a few times, and that was my priority, because I'm planning to leave my current school after this year and want to be as marketable as I can be.  When I chose it, I bought the Lonely Planet guide, and yet, I never actually got around to reading it - it's been a busy spring.  Blondie went there during the Christmas break and hated it - long lines into museums and too many people smoking pot.  Time Lady adored it during spring break, although with it being a busy spring I never got around to discussing its finer points with her.  So I sort of came on this trip a blank slate, and didn't leave with that super excited feeling.  In fact, I was a little apprehensive about being there for two whole weeks.  What if I ran out of things to do!?

Well, fortunately, I am an art teacher, and in a city like Amsterdam that means you will never actually run out of things to do.  The amount of art to see, and art history to experience, is amazing.  Being a seasoned traveler, though, I was aware of the pitfalls of museumitis, and since I had nearly two weeks, I planned my museum-going accordingly, limiting myself to one museum per day, getting up at the buttcrack of dawn to be one of the first to enter and - thus - saving myself from the lines that Blondie mentioned (and being jetlagged meant that this was not actually that extraordinary a feat).  The first stop on my list was a the Rijksmuseum.
I took a Northern Renaissance art history class in university, so the name of the Rijksmuseum was familiar to me (in my professor's rickety, thousand year-old voice), as were many of the artists in the collection.  It's the home of Rembrandt's The Night Watch as well as several Vermeer's.  The thing about standing in front of world-class, super famous art, though, is that it's a little surreal.  And the thing about writing a blog is that the intended audience is not a bunch of art people, and even if it were, I probably couldn't tell you anything about Franz Hals that you don't already know, because I'm not that great a scholar.  What I will be doing, instead, is sharing some art works that made me laugh or got some other sort of reaction out of me.  The detail above is about being inspired by the muse of music.  I found it interesting to see, even in their art works, that the Dutch are much more sexually liberated than some other parts of Europe, because even though there are a lot of pinched nipples in history, how many artists would choose to depict the muse squirting milk over a violin's strings as a way of providing inspiration.  There were other indications of this (such as the "Womb Room"), but let's move on, shall we?

The morning I went to the Rijksmuseum I was able to buy my ticket for the Van Gogh museum at the same time, which saved me from having to stand in line, although I still went ahead and bought the 9 a.m. entry - I figured the fewer people I had to share Vincent with, the happier I would be.  It was interesting to see so many works from throughout his life in one place - to see the transitions he made throughout his career.  I found myself thanking all that is artistic that he moved on from his peasant paintings really quick - I respect his admiration for the home-grown country life and I think he would have appreciated Mongolia for that reason, and who doesn't like a painting of people getting buzzed on absinthe?  However, as I've stated before, I'm kind of a whore for color, so I'm glad he moved on.  His later color schemes were absolutely brilliant.  I also picked up on something I hadn't noticed before - I knew that Van Gogh was inspired by Hiroshige and other ukiyo-e printmakers, but it wasn't until I was looking at some of his sketches that I noticed the similarity of his figure studies to some of the ones that Hokusai did.  So that was fun.  Sorry, there's no photos - I did a few sketches but decided to leave my camera out of it.
Speaking of my obsession with color, this was one of the things I loved the most about the Rembrandshuis Museum as well, which I saw almost as bright and early on day three (it didn't open until 10).  Each room in the house has been carefully curated (with the manifests from when he went bankrupt) so that it looks as it did when he lived there, and it's amazing to really get a feel for where he would have lived and worked.  My favorite thing, though, was seeing the demonstration of how paints were mixed.  Occasionally this comes up when I'm teaching, but I've never really been able to explain it well, because it wasn't something I've ever done or even seen.  They also had a really cool display showing how artist/scientists were working to analyze and recreate his exact colors using the pigments in ceramic glazes, which was really interesting to see.

My last art museum wasn't one that I really intended to visit.  The Stedelijk houses a really great collection of modern art, but my general take on modern art is that it's not worth paying 15 euros to see.  I'm sorry, but although I'm privileged I'm far from rich and I can see contemporary art in my hometown and pretty much any other city I visit, for much less than 15 euros.  However, it was an object lesson in our IB workshop - our instructor felt that it would be a waste to be teaching about the DP art program to a bunch of art teachers and not take them to an art museum, and it's hard to argue with that.  It was kind of fun to be around other art teachers with my new hair, because I'm not the only one with an obsession with color, and I got a lot of compliments.  Our instructor even pointed out that I needed to take a selfie with this piece because of how well it contrasted with my hair. 

In the end, I saw a lot of museums - although not the Anne Frank House, and I feel like this makes me a terrible person, but I'll add it to my list for when I come back to see the tulips and Fabritius - but I feel like I experienced a lot of other aspects of life in the Netherlands as well.  I think I could put together a really awesome, educational trip for my students...if the trust wasn't long gone, because there is no WAY I am taking my 17 year old boys to a city full of pot and hookers when I know they've snuck out.  As it is, I will have to save up for a while before I attempt it again, because I ate way too many meals in Burger King.

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