Such a beautiful day in Alkmaar

Why do we always refer to weather, when we say it’s a beautiful day? Weird; right? It was a beautiful day in Alkmaar, but by stating this, I do not refer to the weather; because it was cold and grey. No; I refer to my visit of the stedelijk museum Alkmaar.

It’s been a while since I’ve been there, but it has always been a pleasure. Museums can be art-, culture-, history-, or science-oriented. This museum (almost) has it all; it exhibits art, culture and history. They have, like most museums, a temporary and a permanent exhibition. The permanent exhibition is about the golden age, the Spanish siege, and on the permanent art collection. For the non-Dutch readers, I think I need to explain the golden age and the Spanish siege; because these both are typical Dutch historical events. The Spanish siege took place in the 16th, and the golden age in the 17th century. I think, their names practically tell what the events were about: Holland was conquered during the Spanish siege, by Spain, and the golden age was an age when the Dutch (almost) had a monopoly in world trade.

Even though I started my tour through the museum with the temporary exhibition; I think for this blog I will keep the best for last. So I start with the exhibition on the Spanish siege. The people in Alkmaar are particularly proud on this one thing that defines their history: they stopped the Spanish siege. So, they obviously dedicated a whole room to it. The picture you see, illustrates the Spanish attack, but not the room. For the room is an interactive play, where you can ‘talk’ with different people from Alkmaar, who experienced the Spanish assault. It is very, very nicely done; with tv screens and short movies with monologues from actors in 16th century clothing. But I already have seen it before, so I moved on.

The exhibition on the golden age is not very big. It mainly is on paintings. Most of them were portraits. But the picture you see here, isn’t taken in the room with the golden age theme, though; it is taken in the room which exhibits the permanent collection. I sure love how the wall is full of paintings. It is a bit like the artcollector’s collage, I told you about in my last post. I think it is funny to see a lot of different paintings in this collage. Some were very old (16th century) and some were quite new (20th century). I noticed a lot of works from Jos van Amsterdam. You can see one (and a quarter) on this picture. He is a contemporary artist, and used to work and live in Alkmaar and Amsterdam (of course). His work is the yellowish, square portrait in the middle of the photo. The painting left, (you can barely see a quarter of it) also is one of his works.

Alkmaar is, next to stopping the Spanish siege, also very proud of the Bergense school, an art movement from the early 20th century, from Bergen, which is very close to Alkmaar. So they also dedicated a room on this subject. The Bergense school typifies itself by the use of big, dark, bold surfaces, with high contrast, because next to dark colors, they use bright colors. I think I will dedicate a whole blog on this art movement one day. For now I will only show you some photo’s of my most favorite Bergense school-artist: Charley Toorop. Actually, her dad was a real Bergense school artist, she started as one, stayed in Bergen though, but changed her style to something I like more: more detailed that is, and less dark, bold surfaces. Here you see her old, and new style. The temporary exhibition was two-fold. The biggest part was on Piet van Wijngaerde. He also is an artist from the Bergense school. He actually was one of the founders of this art movement. He started as a typical Haagse school artist though. I liked his early work, it is very figurative and real, but not very distinctive. Piet van Wijngaerde lived in the early 20th century, and made a change in style two times. At the first change in style, he decided to be a so called luminist. Which is an artist who focuses on catching the light in a painting. I took a picture of one of his artworks from this era. I really love this painting. It is bright, and I really get the luminist idea, when I look at it. His luminist years didn’t last very long though; because soon after that, he decided to paint big bold surfaces, and started the Bergense school with it.

But, like I promised,.. I would save the best for last: the second part of the temporary exhibition was on Mondrian. About 70 years ago, the museum bought a real Mondrian for only a few guilders. How come? Well,.. nobody knew it was a Mondrian. They all thought it was a drawing from Leo Gestel. The drawing was a portrait, which is odd for Mondrian. But they just recently found out it was a real Mondriaan when they discovered the drawing on the back of the paper. On the back they found a drawing of a farm under oak trees, which is typical for Mondrian, but not for Gestel. And after they discovered this, and started doubting, they finally saw the signature of Mondrian on the drawing! Weird right: it was there all along, but no one noticed! So after they discovered all that; they wanted to know who the lady was. And she turned out to be quite famous too. She was the music teacher of our late queen Juliana. Can you imagine? All in all I thought this was a very interesting exhibition. You can see some of Mondrian’s farm paintings, some letters he had written to the lady on the drawing, and compare the drawing with a photo of her. Then you must conclude there’s no mistake in stating that this portrait was made by Mondrian. It’s a real nice story. You should see it! The exhibition lasts till march 10, 2019: so better hurry!

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