Rotterdam, museums

Rotterdam-20130815-00305Rotterdam, at first sight, seems not to have  any recognisable iconic buildings that so differentiate other European cities. However, Rotterdam makes up for this in museums and food. Spoilt for choice, just wandering around ensures that one encounters objects – cranes, boats, steam engines – from the maritime museum (left) with bi-lingual history plates.

The Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen is the City’s primary art gallery, home to an eclectic mix Rotterdam-20130815-00308of pictures, sculpture and furniture. Some of the pictures are very special. Paintings by René Magritte always seem like old friends, unless one has not met them before as in the case of La jeunesse illustree,1937 (right) with its path occupied by some familiar – and not so familiar – Magrittian objects against a blue sky and deep green grass. There are examples from a number of notable surrealists including Man Ray and Salvador Dali. Cubism in the guise of Picasso is also well represented.

Rotterdam-20130815-00311There is work by Van Gogh; for example, Cineraria’s from 1885. Still life is celebrated more widely, with Claude Monet’s Poppies in a Vase from 1883 (both left).

The curators of this museum have much humour integrated into the20130815_140453 plates. For example, Jan Adam Kruseman’s Damesportret from 1829 (pictured right) is, according to the curators, apparently a lesson in timelessness. The unnamed sitter is dressed in all her finery, which, at the time, may have been the height of fashion, but now looks a little overdone and reflects badly on the judgement of the painter rather than the sitter. Lovely smile, though.

Equally, the plate accompanying van Gogh’s Cineraria’s (above), informs us that this painting was supposed to be lighter  and more commercial to help sales. However, the plate concludes with the statement, “it is still not very colourful”. Contrasted with Monet, certainly.

There are also examples of the legitimisation of the flat landscape as a subject. Paul Gabriël’s 1898 work, Landschap bij Overschie (Polder with mills near Overschie) is a notable example (bottom left). Earlier one finds the more traditional approach to landscape painting such as Andreas Schelfhout’s Landschap met rechts een boerderij tussen hoge bomen (Landscape with farm between high trees) from 1817 (below right).

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The museum also houses a collection of modern design artefacts. This collection is not really systematic nor specifically Dutch. There are collections of desk lamps, chairs, even door handles all tracing design innovations and materials. There are also plenty of metal and ceramic artefacts.

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