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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Ryder Studio tours Holland, Part 1: Amsterdam Art (Rembrandthuis and Rijksmuseum)

For two weeks this May, I was given the amazing opportunity to be a part of The Ryder Studio's Rembrandt Pilgrimage in The Netherlands.  These next few posts on my blog will highlight some of the things that were most memorable for me.  This trip meant a lot to me, not only seeing the home country and paintings of great and inspiring artists of the past, but sharing the experience with friends who also inspire me so much.

Many many thanks to our teacher Tony Ryder, our guide Emile Wiegand Bruss, and to Tina and Robert Yahng.  Also to Celeste Ryder, John Reger, Toby Hall, Mercia Moseley, David Baird, Anwar Lowther: it was such a privilege to draw with you all again, explore museums with you, and learn from your insights.  And to Marty Reger: if not for your timely reminders, I would have forgotten we were actually in Europe!!  Ceci, Kasey, Dori and David: it was wonderful to share in this adventure with all of you, and I had so much fun getting to know you better.  And Tessa!  thank you for being the loveliest and sweetest model, and for wearing your pearl earrings.

Rembrandt's House:

On the first day in Amsterdam, we visited the Rembrandthuis. Rembrandt was born in Leiden, which we visited toward the end of our trip, but for much of his life he lived and worked in this very house in Amsterdam:

Below is Rembrandt's former studio with north light windows.  The quality of the light in Holland is (as we expected it would be, but even more so) exquisitely beautiful: cool, pearly and soft, yet with a kind of crystalline clarity.  (Later on in the trip, we had our drawing workshop in a north-lit studio in The Hague and were able to study the effects of such light.)

An artisan demonstrates how to make paint the old fashioned way, mixing the oil into the dry pigment powder (If I remember correctly, this was carmine red, made from little bugs and used to glaze over the vermillion base of the dress in Rembrandt's painting The Jewish Bride):

Many of Rembrandt's paintings and etchings are on display here.  Below is an original copperplate that he would have etched to make prints.  (I was particularly interested in the plate itself, because I have been painting on copper.  This gained popularity in 17th century Holland as painters began to appropriate the etching plates as a painting support.)


The next day we toured the Rijksmuseum, which has an amazing collection of 17th century Dutch art.  The building has been undergoing renovation for some time, so the highlights of the collection have been distilled to fit into one wing of the museum (plus a mini-Rijksmuseum-satellite at the airport, of all places, which I was able to see on the last day before I flew home).  In this lone wing, there is ample feast for the eyes, including Rembrandts scattered all around and a wall of three perfect Vermeers.

Tony spent much time here and throughout the trip showing us how to approach making sketches and studies from these masterworks in order to download subtle observations from the paintings which otherwise may have remained below the level of awareness.  He demonstrated how he looks for the flow and movement in a painting and how every element in the design is orchestrated into the unity of those rhythms.  It became clear to me that the purpose of sketching in such a place is not merely to attempt a pretty copy, but rather to exercise a super-charged way of looking with really focused attention-- a way to actively appreciate and study the painting.  This idea was really helpful for me to remember when I was feeling overwhelmed and faced with the question of how to make the most of my time at these museums where every room seemed filled with masterpieces.

Rijksmuseum exterior:

Looks like there is a party is going on through those doors:

Rembrandt's The Night Watch:

Tony discussed his insights on several of Rembrandt's portraits, including those of JohannesWtenbogaert and Maria Trip:

My main haunt was the Wall of Vermeers, watching people come and go (paintings are The Little Street, The Milkmaid, Woman in Blue Reading a Letter):

I spent a long time staring up close at these sparkly bits of The Milkmaid:

Mini study of Woman in Blue:

A pair of little silver globes, c. 1640 (I am not sure but I think that one is terrestrial, the other celestial, and they may serve as cups or goblets):

Cool calm church interiors by Saenredam (top) and de Witte (bottom):

Holland, Part 2:  Coming soon!