LAF visit to the Netherlands September 2013

Posted on Tuesday 17th December 2013

About 25 of us set out by coach from Leeds on 12th September to explore some of the treasures of the Netherlands. Crossing via Dunkirk we spent the first night outside Bruges and next day had a (somewhat damp) full morning in the city, with a walking tour, and visits to the Groeningen Museum (not least for the wonderful van Eycks), the St Janshospitaal (for the Memlings) and the Arents Museum (for the Brangwyns). We then moved on to Delft which was to be our base for the rest of the visit and had time for a walking tour of this remarkably unspoilt Dutch town. Next day we drove to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, and were hugely impressed by the recent transformation of one of the world's greatest museums. Its additional spaces, greatly improved lighting and displays makes a visit a highly enjoyable experience. We had the services of two engaging art historians who guided us through the masterpieces of the Golden Age and then left us enough time to explore on our own. We departed for The Hague where we had a rendez vous with the Senior Curator at the Gemeentemuseum who introduced us to that most remarkable building of the 1930s and to the great collections of decorative art including a peerless group of delft pottery. For many the highlight was the selection of paintings from the Mauritshuis on display here while the building is undergoing a complete transformation. Not least they included Vermeer's famous view of the water gate of Delft which we passed every time we left our hotel ! We were then able to explore the elegant city of The Hague and Scheveningen from the comfort of our coach.

Next day, a Sunday, we departed for Haarlem where we had an extensive walking tour of the city, taking in many of its hidden gems but also including the massive and impressive Grote Kerk. At the Frans Hals Museum we were shown some of the masterpieces of group portraits by this virtuoso artist by the Curator Emeritus before departing for Leiden and the Lakenhal Museum. Here the masterpiece which most impressed was surely Lucas van Leyden's Last Judgment, not forgetting the Rembrandts, Ruysdaels, van Goyens, Jan Steens etc.

Our second day in Amsterdam began with a highly privileged visit to the legendary Six Collection: a private family collection of superb paintings and works of art from the 17th and 18th century, including one of the greatest Rembrandt portraits, still housed in a canal-side residence. We were split into two groups so as to understand the domestic context of Dutch art which is so often lost after its removal to museums.After this we were free to explore Amsterdam as we wished: some ventured to other house museums in this elegant part of Amsterdam, the van Loons and Willett-Holthuysen Museums, or to the Hermitage Amsterdam, while others went to the Rembrandt House or to the Historical Museum. Most of us had a second visit to the Rijksmuseum to see another aspect of teh colelctions. In the event no-one got lost !

Our last day took us east to Het Loo, the palace of William and Mary; the Dutch equivalent of Hampton Court completely restrored and refurnished in the mid 1980s.From here we moved on to the private country house of Casteel Kepel where we were hosted by the owned Baron van Lynden. We were given a truly memorable tour with his story of his forebears and their house which was full of many unexpected and delightful things. We ended by drinking prosecco surrounded by the portraits of 17th century crowned heads of Europe ! It was a charming way of ending a memorable six days. Our thanks are due to the curators and guides who looked after us and to Tony Broome our brilliant driver.