Tuesday, June 2, 2015

it's not a cartoon

so we are still in the Hague and we have finished the Mauritshuis collection- but we still have a lot more fun ahead of us-

we walked through the castle like place that serves as the Parliament of Holland and as we left we spied a herring stand!  Herring - it is really big this time of year - because it is the season of the "new herring" so people eat herring on the street as a special treat - just dropping a fish into your mouth and eating it...LOL - so we loitered near the stand listening to people ordering and finally stepped up to the counter and placed our order. We ordered a new herring in a bun with onions and a traditional - just the fish in a paper to eat.  The fish is completely gutted so there are no bones and it is not at all fishy tasting or smelling- more like sushi - we really liked it! (kind of surprised but it was excellent for a new street food experience!

but enough fun and games- back to the Parliament building and the surrounding area-

And so we arrive at the Mesdag Panorama and the Mesdag Collection...

I had mixed feelings about making a trek to see this work because I thought it would be cartoonish and I wasn't familiar with Mesdag as an artist (or otherwise for that matter) and generally had low expectations for the experience.  Here is a little background on this remarkable man -

"Mesdag Panorama is the most beautiful sensation of my life. It has just one tiny flaw and that is its flawlessness." (Vincent van Gogh, painter, 1881)

Hendrik Willem Mesdag was encouraged by his father, an amateur painter, to study art. He married Sina van Houten in 1856, and when they inherited a fortune from her father, Mesdag retired from banking at the age of 35 to pursue a career as a painter.  He studied in Brussels.  In 1868 he moved to The Hague to paint the sea. In 1870 he exhibited at the Paris Salon and won the gold medal for The Breakers of the North Sea. In 1880 he received a commission from a Belgian company to paint a panorama giving a view over the village of Scheveningen on the North Sea coast near The Hague . With the help of Sina and students he completed the enormous painting (Panorama Mesdag)— 14 m high and 120 m around  in four months - by 1881.

However, the vogue for panoramas was coming to an end, and when the company operating it went bust in 1886, Mesdag purchased the painting at auction and thereafter funding its operating losses from his own pocket. It is the oldest 19th century panorama in the world in its original site, and a unique cultural heritage.  From an observation gallery in the centre of the room the cylindrical perspective creates the illusion that the viewer is on a high sand dune overlooking the sea, beaches and village of Scheveningen in the late 19th century. A foreground of fake terrain around the viewing gallery hides the base of the painting and makes the illusion more convincing.

The painting was recently restored and while it took a mere four months to paint it took 10 years and millions of dollars to restore. It reopened to the public in March of 2015! (so yea for us!)

skeptical as I was- it was magical to climb the circular lighthouse style staircase and alight into this amazingly realistic world of 1880 - a view from the top of the highest dune around... this one was completely worth the journey!

here are a couple of other paintings there that caused "aesthetic arrest" - and the final one is from the Rijksmuseum - a Mesdag from their collection-

so from there we hopped a tram back to the station  and dashed off to meet my old friend Steve who just happened to be in Amsterdam with his partner on the exact same weekend we were!

I hadn't seen Steve in literally 25 years- since I finished my Master's! so this was a real treat and in the way "small world" karma works another student from our school was also in town the same weekend (her name is Linda and her daughter was one of my classmates)

we had drinks with Steve, his partner George and their friends from Holland along with Linda and then we all headed off to various dinner plans.  Back in the day - we had a saying "they don't call it the Movement for nothing..LOL"  - completely fun catching up even if only for an hour or so....

our meal that evening was at Bridges and it will be in the next post - spectacularly beautiful food... so be sure to come on back!

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