I’m aiming for the less well known ones, not the Louvre or the National Gallery, though I may sneak in an exhibition or two along the way. But today, I’m in the Netherlands.
I visited Delft on a Nadfas trip a few years ago and the Rijksmuseum had only just reopened after a major refurbishment. Every picture had been rehung in a new location, except Rembrandt’s Night Watch. It was wonderful. I’d never been there before and we intended to return this spring – but maybe 2022, if not next year.
That’s not the one I’m going to write about today though. The startling coincidence is, because I’d been talking to it to Tim yesterday, is that my friend Pam posted a link on Facebook to an article. This one. One of the museums most closely involved is the one I was going to speak about tonight. The Kröller-Müller Museum. It is exceptional. Modern art works; that is, from Van Gogh onwards, with several thousand paintings and sculptures in a parkland setting. Many of the sculptures are outside and you can stroll round the sculpture garden. You can also borrow a bike – I think there’s no charge; or at any rate, it’s included in the entry price – and cycle round the park at your leisure.
This is its story – The Timeline includes the story of Helene Kröller-Müller, who bequeathed the world’s second largest Van Gogh collection to the Netherlands and founded one of the first museums for modern art in 1938. And the story of the museum during the war years, in which you read how curator Willy Auping Jr. kept the art collection out of the hands of the occupiers during the Second World War. You will read that Bram Hammacher gave the museum a new dimension with the realization of the sculpture garden in 1961 and that his successor Rudi Oxenaar had a new wing built, designed by the Dutch architect Wim Quist.
I’ve thought about my love of art and, sadly, that I have no ability towards it at all. There is no point in regret, at my stage in life, but I still can’t help being sorry that I was never given any teaching, confidence or belief in any aptitude. I don’t know if I might have been had any sort of artistic ability but I do think I could have been taught some proficiency. Sadly, my art teacher at school was rubbish. I don’t remember her name but I do know I was slightly afraid of her and knew that she dismissed me. I was a small, shy child and I would have liked to draw. Painting was out of my modest comfort zone, but I might have managed something delicate. She wanted big daubs of colour and I was unable to achieve anything. I have never been taught anything about perspective, colour, how to look or to turn what I saw into a picture. Like a games teacher to this day, those with an existing aptitude were her favourites and those who needed encouragement and the guidance of an undiscovered ability, however modest, were ignored and even ridiculed. I’m still unable to hold a paintbrush with confidence. Yet I can assess a painting or a sculpture and appreciate it and I well remember the first time I visited Tate Modern, not long after it opened. I had seen little modern art then but, by the time I’d been there a couple of hours, my eye had learned a lot. There were a vast array of paintings and the rooms were arranged in themes or types. I walked into a room of dots and eyed, in moments, the couple that were worth looking at, those that were derivative nothings, those that were art school studentish but had potential. I don’t know how I knew, but I did. Seeing is not the same as doing, but I despise that art teacher from 55 years ago. Too late, I’m not going to pick up a pencil now.
Anyway. The Kröller- Müller is to be recommended. I would love to go again. But I will check out the Van Gogh virtual exhibition.