Kazimir_Malevich_-_Self-PortraitThe day before yesterday I was watching a dutch cultural program on the television. It was, like almost any program at this time of year, repeating the highs and lows of 2013. I normally don’t like these repeats actually, for most of it really is not very interesting (I really don’t care listening to a remainder of who won the soccer cup and who married or divorced who in the last 365 days). But a list on every highlight about art and culture; I actually do fancy. I got to check whether or not I was getting a hold on every interesting (dutch) happening last year.

Turned out I did, and I didn’t. I didn’t, for I totally missed the fact that Piet Oudolf, a very famous landscape designer from the Netherlands, had won the Prins Berhard Cultuurfonds Price. (a famous award for culture in the Netherlands) I too did not notice the grand feast in favor of the dutch pianist / orchestra conductor Reinbert de Leeuw’s anniversary. And the fact that Hubert-Jan Henket had renovated (no fewer than) 3 museums in the Netherlands, I really, totally missed,…

I did not miss the grand opening of the Rijksmuseum (of the Netherlands) though, like I also did not miss the anniversary of the concerthall in Amsterdam. But the most important thing I did not miss was the highlight of all expositions in the Netherlands of 2013: the exposition of Malevich paintings in het stedelijk in Amsterdam.

We went to see the exposition in October this year, six days after the opening. And we definitely weren’t the only ones with the idea to go see the work of the Russian avant-garde artist. The exposition contained more than 500 works of art, but, I need to be frank, not all of them were of Malevich. Next to the paintings of Malevich, we could admire paintings of other Russian pioneer painters of his age. To name a few: Wassily Kandinsky, Natalia Goncharova, Maria Ender and Vera Pestel. If you read this short list, you might notice it contains quite some women-names. This is representative for the exposition, and I must say it surprised me a bit, especially when I was informed about the Russian ban on the abstract art they created. But it turned out to be that this ban was introduced more than a decade after Malevich and his co-avant-gardists had painted their most abstract paintings. It was still pretty amazing to see how many of the abstract Russian paintings had survived this ban though.

MalevichOne other thing I really was interested in, was to see Malevich’s painting change throughout the years. He started as an impressionist and painted symbolic paintings. These were pretty good, but I liked his cubist style better though. Especially ‘Englishman in Moscow’ has really bright colors, and over all a composition I really like. After 1915 he started to paint suprematist paintings. The black square is his most famous painting, and of course this one was present at the exposition. It was placed high in the corner of two white walls, as you can see on the picture. The most amazing part of this suprematist paintings, to me, is the avant garde part. It takes a lot of guts to do something entirely different. Something we cannot imagine right now, I guess, for it seems like everything has been painted in every imaginable way. These days it is extremely difficult to shock by creating art. Malevich did, however. And with him a lot more avant garde painters from Russia. And, I think, we owe them.




When painting, or drawing, the result always partially depends on the medium. I myself haven’t even nearly tried them all, for just one simple reason: I have to buy them all to try them all, and buying requires money. 

But this Christmas I treated myself on a box of charcoal. They aren’t very expensive and I was curious to work with them, for I usually only draw with a pencil. Now, for me, buying = trying = learning = creating. That’s how I learned to work with pencil, oil paint, and water color as well. Although I must say, I sometimes search the internet, or roam through museums for new ideas.

But when I first laid my hands on charcoal, (the day before yesterday,) I was an absolute beginner. Therefore I, wrongly, expected it to work like a pencil. It looked like a pencil, didn’t it? So I figured it would work like a pencil. A very soft pencil, yes; so it would smudge better and it would be better for soft lines, I figured. I also figured it would be more easy to make contrasts, for it is more dark. Actually, so I thought, it would be better than a pencil: it was darker, it would smudge better, and it would be better to create soft lines. 

ImageAnd, part of me was right,.. the only thing I did not take into account was the fact that charcoal is not ideal for detailed drawings. Which was actually quite a bummer, for I like to make detailed drawings. It takes me forever to do all the details, but I cannot be satisfied with a painting or drawing if I haven’t payed enough attention to the details. (Of course, there are a lot of painters who are way better in detailed painting, than I am. I never, ever, would be as good as the Leidse fijnschilders, for example) Therefore charcoal left me a bit unsatisfied, so to say.

But, charcoal might not be the whole reason for me being unsatisfied with the end result. When I took my box of charcoal, I was not only a beginner in using charcoal, I also was a beginner in drawing from a moving model. Two, to be exact. My son and my cat were sitting on the couch, while watching a movie. So, I figured, I would draw them, since the movie would last a while and I sincerely thought he and the cat would sit still for some time. Boy, was I wrong! Therefore too, the result is not as detailed as I would have liked. Especially the cat would definitely not sit still! But, however, I figured it wasn’t a total disaster. So I am more than willingly to share the result. And I will keep you posted on my progress in using charcoal.


Ugly women in paintings


ImageUgly women in paintings. Why would I dedicate a blog post on ugly women? Well,… the last days the subject has gotten my attention, for I spent my Christmas attempting to avoid camera’s (and people). The reason? Nasty cold sores were trying to ruin my holidays. Really, really, nasty cold sores,…

And these cold sores made me wonder; would there be a painting of a woman with cold sores? Would it exist? It probably would be an ugly painting, and the sitter would not be pleased with the painter for neglecting to do some embellishment on her. (I sure wouldn’t!) For, especially in the baroque period, it was the painters job to adorn. But, since the painter himself is an artist, and artists not always follow rules; I found two paintings of very ugly women. And both paintings have a tale to tell.

The first is a very famous painting, painted by Quinten Matsys, although some people attributed it to Leonardo da Vinci. I unfortunately never saw the painting in real life, for it is in the collection of the National Gallery in London, and I’ve never been in London. (I know; such a shame!) This painting raised some questions. For example: who was the lady? Is the painting satirical, or did the painting resemble the truth?

In 2008, the Guardian finally revealed the answer, the mystery was solved: the woman must have been real and suffered from Paget’s disease. This disease enlarges the jaw, extends the upper lip and pushes up the nose. It was, however, a rare form of Paget’s, for it usually isn’t this bad. But nevertheless real; because, they said, the painting is given much love and attention by the painter. He sure would not have done this if he wasn’t assigned to do so. Therefore the lady should not only be real, she also should have had offered Matsys a lot of money to copy her image.

So; the mystery is solved? Not really, if you ask me,… for why would an artist only give love and attention to the painting if he’s payed to do so? Weird way of thinking,…

The other painting is one I haven’t seen either. But then again; not a lot of people have seen the painting in real life, and it isn’t worth a lot of money.  The lady on this painting does not have cold sores either. She is ugly though, but I think this is mostly due to her grumpy look. She really looks like a tart old woman.

The painting was sent to an old couple by post. No letter, just a painting of a very ugly lady. Well, how often does that happen to you? I rarely experience stuff like that. And how would you feel if you opened up the package? The woman of the house actually was horrified. She did not want the painting in her house, so it was given a place in the garage. This doesn’t feel strange to me. I think, I too would be shocked. I would think it would be some kind of sick joke. But it probably wasn’t, for the old couple appealed the media for an answer to their questions. They wanted to know who sent them the painting. And as an answer, they found out that the lady in the painting turned out to be the great, great grandmother of the old man. Whoever sent the painting still remains a big question, however.




This weekend I got to meet Peter Paul Rubens.

It wasn’t a thorough meeting, unfortunately, for I did not even get to know much about his oeuvre. But I did invite myself into his home, saw some of his paintings and sketches, and really amazed myself.

Peter Paul Rubens; a guy I actually only knew by name. I saw some of his paintings before visiting the Rubenshuis. One of them: Avondlandschap is in museum Boijmans van Beuningen; one of my favorite museums. I didn’t pay much attention to the painting though. Although it is painted in a style I really like. I like baroque, as I like to get to know more painters. That’s why I needed to visit the Rubenshuis when I visited Anwerp this weekend. Because, frankly, I expected to have the same experience, entering the Rubenshuis, as I had when visiting the Rembrandtshuis. But the experience was quite different.

Like I said, I never knew Rubens very much. I only knew he was a contemporary to Rembrandt. And while Rembrandt lived in Amsterdam and Leiden, Rubens lived in Antwerp. These cities aren’t far apart, so for all I knew, the guys could have been best of friends. Visiting the Rubenshuis, however, I discovered the differences between them.

When I entered the Rubenshuis, the beautiful courtyard and the porch immediately draw my attention. It was easy to tell Rubens was a wealthy man, who had fallen in love with Italian art. I would have loved to see the courtyard in the summer. I really think it would be gorgeous if it was green and blooming. But the statues and the stunning ornaments and embellishments still were pretty amazing in winter. The courtyard appeared to belong to a very important person, if I knew otherwise, I would not have guessed it was the courtyard of a painter.


The courtyard really was complementary to the house. By reading the guide, we found out that Rubens was not only the most important, but also the most successful painter of his age. Boy, was I ashamed I did not pay some more attention to the Avondlandschap, when I saw it! It was painted by the most important painter of the 17th century! Such an ignorance from my part! But, all was not lost yet. I just set foot in the house of this very important painter, and I was willing to learn everything there was to learn.

But, like I said, the meeting with Rubens wasn’t thoroughly. I hoped I would see his atelier, like I saw Rembrandt’s. I hoped I would be able to imagine him walking through his atelier. I tried to ‘see’ him painting, as I gazed through my eyelashes, in the enormous room which used to be his atelier. But I didn’t. No doubt; the room was beautiful, like the whole house. I would be able to spend all day, just admiring the room. But it was too big and fancy; it didn’t ‘breath’ painting, the room was just too lofty. The only thing I learned, walking through the house, was his life as a very rich, and respected gentleman. And although it is amazing one can become rich and respected by painting, I would really have loved to smell the paint, like I did in the Rembrandtshuis.