Manhattan Masters, works from the Frick Collection; Mauritshuis, The Hague

Frans Hals

It is said that the very great Titian (1488/90-1576) maintained that a good painter only needed the colours black, white and red.

Frans Hals (detail)

Looking at this brilliant portrait by Frans Hals (1582/83-1666) one might easily agree, although the red is only present mixed with ochres in the face of the sitter.

Frans Hals (detail)

It is one of the ten paintings from the Frick Collection, New York, presently on show at the Mauritshuis Museum in The Hague, and as such it is a good opportunity to see some of its famous works.

Isack van Ostade

Getting back to Titian, one would think Isack van Ostade (1621-1649; brother to the more famous Adriaen van Ostade) wasn’t a good painter, except if you replace black and white with dark and light. The red is centred very much in the action in front of the tavern.

Rembrandt van Rijn

An absolute highlight of the Frick’s Dutch paintings is of course this majestic self-portrait by Rembrandt (1606-1669), one of the must-sees of the exhibition. It is again the dark, light and red which are important.

Rembrandt van Rijn (detail)

The light highlights the face of the painter against the dark background, while the red sash gives a strong accent to the rest of the figure.

Follower of Rembrandt van Rijn

There is also a portrait by a follower or student of Rembrandt’s. In fact it is quite a rembrandtesque painting and quite a good one for that. One might also call it titianesque with black being the main pigment of the painting, with smaller white accents and only some red in the lips of the sitter.

Philips Wouwerman

In this small work by Philips Wouwerman (1619-1668) the red is more spread over the group of soldiers, while there are some strong white accents in the horses. As a whole it is a virtuoso composition with different structures, tones and shapes.

Carel van der Pluym

According to the catalogue Frick purchased this painting by Carel van der Pluym (1625-1672) believing it was a Rembrandt, and so paying far too much money for it. Van der Pluym was a student of Rembrandt’s but clearly not one of his best. The whole composition looks like a hotchpotch of different parts. The face looks as if it is added to a puppet, the difference in tone of the hands is unexplainable and the red of the dress is boring and amateurish.

Johannes Vermeer

This famous painting by Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675) is quite a different story and it is the other absolute highlight (and even more than that as far as i am concerned) of the exhibition. The difference with Van der Pluym’s gibberish couldn’t be greater.

Johannes Vermeer (detail)

Look at that brilliant red with its different shades of the soldier’s coat, returning in the decorations on his black hat, just in front of the bright, white light of the open window and opposed to the lively character of the smiling lady. What an absolute wonder it is, whether you look at it as a three-dimensional scene or as a flat abstract composition.

Aelbert Cuyp

In this work by Aelbert Cuyp (1620-1691) the red is in the cow at the left, the black is in the standing cow and the white is in the shepherd’s shirt, the rest is just Cuyp.

Jacob van Ruisdael

The monumental painting by Jacob van Ruisdael (1628/29-1682) has some of the usual ingredients of his invented landscapes: an old oak tree, a winding path, something with water, more trees, a deep horizon and a dramatic sky. Still you may have the idea that the Mauritshuis’ own, much smaller View of Haarlem is a far more brilliant work.

Jacob van Ruisdael, Philips Wouwerman (?) (detail)

The figures in the landscape – the noblemen (or nobleman and his servant), the two horses, the huntsman and his dog and the fisherman – are said to be painted by Wouwerman. Indeed the red in the cloak of the figure on the left and the red in the fisherman’s cap give some life to the whole composition. The same can be said about the red-coated figure in the foreground of the landscape by Meindert Hobbema (1638-1709), as usual more anecdotal, with a weaker perspective and with paler tones than in his teacher Ruisdael’s works.

Concluding: the three most impressive paintings are by the usual suspects Hals, Rembrandt and Vermeer, nice surprises are the small work by Wouwerman and the portrait by the Rembrandt follower/student, the absolute lowest point is the work by Van der Pluym, while the Ruisdael is not the most brilliant one you could dream of by that master.

Meindert Hobbema

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Contents of all photographs courtesy to the Frick Collection, New York and to the Mauritshuis, Den Haag

Bertus Pieters

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Hans Arp, The Final Work; Kunstmuseum, The Hague & Bezuidenhoutseweg, The Hague

The things / we call lifeless / are not lifeless at all. / They often rub / their hands with glee / and laugh up / their sleeves / for joy at / not being human

Well, there you are: more than twenty pictures about an exhibition at Kunstmuseum The Hague, with only eight objects.

And three of them are even omitted in this report! But what an exhibition it is! It is all about the last stone sculpture made by Hans /Jean (depending whether you are more German or French inclined) Arp (1886-1966), and today still on public show along Bezuidenhoutseweg.

Arp was asked in 1964 to make a sculpture for the then new and modern neighbourhood.

It became Scrutant l’horizon (Looking out over the Horizon), which was placed in 1966.

The whole story of how the work was commissioned and made can now be seen and read in the Kunstmuseum.

The museum obtained Arp’s plaster model for the work in 1964.

After Arp’s death some bronze casts were made of this plaster model, two of which are now on show, together with the plaster model.

That in itself already makes it a great but intimate show.

At least, it caused a kind of photographic frenzy in me, as you can see here.

The sheer repetition of the sculpture and the difference in patina of the two bronzes are a feast for the eyes.

As such this small presentation is both art historically and aesthetically a gem.

Apart from the three Scrutant l’horizons there are five more works by Arp on show, a sculpture and two reliefs amongst others.

Arp was also a prolific poet in both German and French and two examples, in both languages, are present in the show, breaking the barriers between seeing and reading.

in infinite space / he stood / on his left arm / holding up the earth / with his right arm / when the bursts of fire / from fallen angels hit him // an incandescent fruit / a terrifying fruit / beat in his breast

The German poem is more deliberate in its content, while the French poem grows in the mind like his sculptures.

If there would be a shortcoming in the exhibition, it should be the fact that there is no recent picture of the present state of the public work on show.

So, the next day i rushed to Bezuidenhoutseweg to make a few pictures of Scrutant l’horizon there, which are included here as well.

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Contents of all photographs courtesy to the estate of Hans Arp and to Kunstmuseum, Den Haag

Bertus Pieters

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Moshekwa Langa, Omweg (Detour); KM21, The Hague

To write a review for Villa La Repubblica about Moshekwa Langa’s (1975) present show i went to KM21 in The Hague. Click here to read the review in VLR (in Dutch).

The pictures here can be seen as additional to the VLR article. As I’ve written quite extensively about the exhibition I leave you here with these pictures without comments, except that I warmly recommend the show to you.

Click here to read the review in Villa La Repubblica (in Dutch).

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Contents of all photographs courtesy to Moshekwa Langa and KM21, Den Haag

Bertus Pieters

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Rein Jelle Terpstra, Dark Dunes (Donkere duinen); Fotomuseum, The Hague

For people who lived in countries occupied by the Germans during World War II, that time became a trauma, which became hereditary for generations to come. In fact, those who deny this or do not know it, understand little of the society they live in.

As the generation that lived through World War II becomes smaller and smaller, that war period is increasingly becoming a myth. In the process, it is forgotten that there was also an everyday life.

For instance, there was an anonymous photographer who took pictures of the landscape, objects and things from everyday life. The negatives were collected by artist Rein Jelle Terpstra (1960).

The photographer added the dates, shutter speeds and aperture stops. The negatives are now presented at Fotomuseum Den Haag in the exhibition Donkere duinen (“Dark Dunes”).

The negative images are presented as a kind of dream images; knowing that in dreams, any obviousness can turn into doom or open-endedness. At the same time, enlargements of front pages of the Algemeen Handelsblad – a daily newspaper during the war – are exhibited as if to illustrate the doom lurking behind the pictures.

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Contents of all photographs courtesy to Rein Jelle Terpstra and to Fotomuseum, Den Haag.

Bertus Pieters

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Boris Lurie & Wolf Vostell, Art After Auschwitz; Kunstmuseum, The Hague

Boris Lurie

I went to the exhibition Art after Auschwitz with works by Boris Lurie (1924-2008) and Wolf Vostell (1932-1998) at Kunstmuseum The Hague, to write a review for Villa La Repubblica. Click here to read the article in VLR (in Dutch).

Boris Lurie

As i’ve written quite extensively about the exhibition i leave you here with some impressions, and the strong recommendation to experience it all yourself.

Boris Lurie
Boris Lurie
Boris Lurie
Boris Lurie
Wolf Vostell
Boris Lurie
Wolf Vostell
Wolf Vostell
Boris Lurie
Boris Lurie
Boris Lurie
Boris Lurie
Boris Lurie
Wolf Vostell
Wolf Vostell
Wolf Vostell
Wolf Vostell
Boris Lurie
Wolf Vostell
Wolf Vostell
Wolf Vostell
Wolf Vostell
Wolf Vostell
Wolf Vostell

Click here to read the article in VLR (in Dutch).

Wolf Vostell

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Contents of all photographs courtesy to the owners of the works, the estates of both artists and Kunstmuseum, Den Haag.

Bertus Pieters

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Theo Jansen, Strandbeests, The New Generation; Kunstmuseum, The Hague

To quote myself from some lines i wrote about a Theo Jansen (1948) exhibition at Heden in The Hague in 2016 : “Why should culturally interested tourists in The Hague flock to M.C. Escher while there is a Strandbeest by Theo Jansen currently on show at Heden gallery?”

The same could be said – and with even more conviction – about the present Theo Jansen show at the Kunstmuseum, The Hague.

A short history of Jansen’s Strandbeest phenomenon is given inside the museum.

Visitors are even invited to pull and push the creatures a bit. In videos projected on the walls you can see how they were developed by Jansen into monsters who only need flat space and wind to move by themselves.

They are made mainly of pvc tubes and they need neither food and drink nor psychological encouragement to move.

Jansen is certainly one of the most remarkable artists in The Hague and one of the most non-provincial ones (The Hague seems to be a good breeding ground for non-provincial artists anyway).

His so-called Strandbeests (“Beach Beasts”) have walked the sands of quite a few places in the world already.

And now they are on show in the Kunstmuseum at last.

One beast is more or less permanently on show in the museum’s courtyard, four are on show in the museum’s project room, one is hanging in the entrance hall and ten are on display outside along the museum’s pond for all passers-by to be admired.

Jansen’s works may at first seem to be the follies of a dazed and drunk technician, but they also contain the idea of the sublime, to make something awe-inspiring and never seen before, of second rate materials, something that generates sympathy, respect as well as joy in the viewer, and the feeling of being part of this great imagination.

As such Jansen’s Strandbeests are even more basic than religion.

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Contents of all photographs courtesy to Theo Jansen and Kunstmuseum, Den Haag.

Bertus Pieters

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