Thursday, May 27, 2010


I left Bruges this morning by train to head back to Brussels, where I also took a look around the city. It took about an hour to get to the Central train station. Brussels is an interesting and international city. I heard a lot of French conversations, which I tried hard to understand, as well as Flemish and other languages. It was also another day of mixed art sightings. I saw three museums in Brussels today, the Magritte Museum, and the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, which has separate museums within of Ancient and Modern Art, which is essentially the Louvre of Brussels. After purchasing the combo ticket for 3€ (I will be sad when I no longer qualify for the student or under 25 price in a few years!), I began with the Magritte museum. You take an elevator up to the top floor and then work your way down from there. There were quotes over all the walls from Magritte, some were very interesting. I also found a few paintings that I loved and would like to look up to find more information about. After the Magritte Museum I moved on to the Ancient art portion. The collection here also has many Flemish primitive art and several other famous works. One of my favorites that I came across, unexpectedly, were “The Annunciation” by the Master Flemalle or Robert Campin, which is actually the cover of my Northern Renaissance textbook and has incredible detail, especially on the blue and white vase of lilies. Other works I found were Dirk Bouts “Panneaux de la Justice de l’empeurer Otton,” Lucas Cranach the Elder’s “Venus and Cupid,” and Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s “The Fall of Icarus,” which is a painting I have always liked and did not realize was at this museum. I also saw Louis David’s famous “Death of Marat,” which is an extremely powerful painting. In the Modern Art Museum, there were many Belgian painters I had not heard of but several of which I wrote down in order to find more information on once I return to the States. Here, there was a nice Seurat, many interesting James Ensor pieces, and a few Gauguins. Both sections and the Magritte Museum were extremely interesting. I then walked to the Grand Place which is similar to a market square. The entire area is only for pedestrians so it was a very lively place to people-watch and also eat the most amazing warm Belgian waffle. The square was getting ready for a large jazz festival this weekend and an enormous stage was being set up in the middle, so the view was a little obscured, but the old buildings which are highlighted with painted gold are still very beautiful. I then made my way down to the “Mannequin-Pis,” which is the symbol of the city and had about 15 people snapping pictures in front of it. I took a few of my own and then headed back towards the Grand Place to walk around a bit more. Brussels is much different from Bruges and Ghent but had a lot to offer and I had yet another wonderful day abroad! This was my last day and I am heading back to Texas tomorrow, a little sad to leave but very excited about everything I have been able to see. I hope to return again soon!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Ghent & more of Bruges

The weather so far on my trip has been wonderful, sunny or a little cloudy and in the 70s, so to have bad weather for just one day out of the week was okay with me. It got a little cold today, in the 40s and rained all day, but I still managed to see a few sights. I took a day trip out to Ghent, which is about a 30 minute train from Bruges. When I arrived in Bruges, I was a unclear as to how to find the correct tram, but luckily, the first tram driver I found was very helpful and even got out of the driver's seat to show me which zones to buy the ticket for in the ticket machine. My intent in Ghent was to find St. Bavo's Catherdal, home to Jan van Eyck's famous Ghent Altarpiece or The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, it holds several names. Unfortunately though, I had a bit of a trip oversight and arrived to the church only to find that the entire altarpiece was undergoing restoration! They had a life size copy so I did take a look at this with the audio guide tour, but I was still very disappointed not to have seen the real thing. Oh well, looks like another trip to Belgium will need to happen soon! While in Ghent, I also visited the nearby St. Nicholas Church, which in some parts dates to the 1200s, with continued additions made in later centuries. This church was beautiful and even though it was cloudy was extremely light on the interior. I also walked into the Bell tower and through a little bit of the town. Ghent is full of shops and many people were out and about despite the rain. I then walked to the other train station, opposite of the one I arrived from and headed back to Bruges. I would definitely consider staying in Ghent on a different trip. Once back in Bruges, I visited the Gruuthuse museum, which is an old preserved city palace. The museum has many interesting objects from religious works to lace works to kitchenware and weapons, all from life between the 15th and the 19th centuries. There are also various old and luxurious tapestries on display. After spending some time at this museum, I decided to walk around a little more of the city and take pictures of the old buildings and canals. I came across a Miro exposition advertisement and followed the signs through a courtyard until I found where it was. It was an exhibit of many of Miro's lithographs and even had editions of the same ones owned by the Wake Forest Print Collection! So all in all, I had a hodge-podge museum and art day, but very much enjoyed my last day in the wonderful city of Bruges. Tomorrow is my last full day in Belgium and I am heading to Brussels!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

the Groeningemuseum and the Memling Musueum

I spent all day today in Bruges and saw a lot of amazing things. I began in the Vismarkt (Fish Market), which I could smell from at least a block away. I watched several sellers quickly de-bone and cut sections of fish to set out for sale. I then moved on to the Market Square area to climb to the top of the bell tower for a panoramic view. 366 steps! But what a view! I then saw the two main museums in Bruges. First was the Groeninemuseum, which houses a collection of early Flemish Primitive art and extends all the way through Bruges' neoclassicism, romanticism, impressionism, symbolism, post-modern, etc. periods. Featured especially are artists from Bruges. Highlights included Hugo van der Goes "The Dormitation" (1470-82), Rogier van der Weyden "Saint Luke Drawing the Madonna" (1490-1510), Jan van Eyck "Madonna with Canon Joris van der Peale" (1436), and Gerard David "Baptism of Christ" (1510-1515). I had studied all of these paintings in my Northern Renaissance class and was very excited to see all of the details up close. The rich fabrics, jewels, and metals are especially beautifully painted. After the Groeningemuseum, I walked next door to the Church of Our Lady, which is one of the tallest structures in Bruges. You can see the tower from many of the streets. Here, I found one of the only Michelangelo statues not located in Italy. It is a Madonna and Child and is exquisite. From the church, I moved almost next door to the St. John’s Hospital Museum, which also contains the small Memling Museum. The hospital portion was interesting, displaying various tools, paintings, and explanations of the hospital during past centuries. There were many early, mostly anonymous, Flemish religious works displayed as well. Additionally, an ivory exhibit was running, and detailed much information about the introduction and uses of ivory during the 14th century when it was brought to the Flanders area. The Memling Museum portion is home to the Shrine of St. Ursula, and five other Memling paintings including a large triptych. The shrine was my main goal of visiting and it definitely did not disappoint. Much larger than I had anticipated; this work of art displays eight main panels of the legend of St. Ursula and also 6 smaller round paintings in the roof section. A wonderful surprise in this section was also a loan from the Groeningemuseum: Bosch’s “Last Judgment.” I always love Bosch’s imagery, although much of it falls on the strange side. The triptych had many fantastical and imaginary animals and sights, a truly original work equaled by no one. After the Memling and St. John’s Hospital Museums, I decided to enjoy a little more of the sights of the city. I walked through busy, cobblestone streets of tourists, hearing bits of Flemish and French conversations from locals, and enjoying the wonderful weather. I found another church called St. Jacobs Kerk in a residential neighborhood, parts of it date from the 1200s. Bruges still seems like a city from another century and I am excited to explore more of tomorrow!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Onward to Belgium

I started the day out in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and ended up in Bruges, Belgium by the early evening. Today was a busy day in terms of traveling! I got up early to get to the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam when it opened at 10:00AM. I arrived ten minutes after it opened and already the line was almost around the corner! Good thing I had already bought my ticket online! This museum seems even more popular than the nearby Rijksmuseum, the rooms are fairly open, but it was still packed! Now, I know that this is not exactly Northern Renaissance art, but I just could not pass up the collection. This museum has the largest body of works by van Gogh and also shows a collection of 19th century painters and sculptures. The ground floor, (0), displays works by artists admired by van Gogh in both the Barbizon and the Hague schools of painting. Next, the first floor contains the permanent collection of van Gogh paintings. The collection is arranged chronologically and by location, thus, visitors are able to really capture the developments, changes, and influences of van Gogh. The rooms move from the Netherlands, to Paris, to Arles, to Saint-Rémy, to Auvers-Sur-Oise. Here I was able to see several of van Gogh's most famous self portraits as well as "The Potato Eaters," "Sunflowers" (1889), and "Almond Blossoms," which is one of my favorite paintings. The Saint-Rémy section was especially interesting to me as I was fortunate enough to visit the former hospital last summer to see some of the well-known views van Gogh painted. The second floor unfortunately was closed for renovations but the third floor showed paintings by van Gogh's artist friends as well as works by symbolist painters. I really enjoyed this museum and loved the way it was set up. I believe the chronological approach was extremely beneficial to the overall effect. After I left, I grabbed my bag from the hotel, checked out, and was on my way to the train station to catch a train to Bruges, Belgium, or several trains as it turned out. Luckily I only had to transfer once, in Antwerp, here called Antwerpen, and made it to Bruges, here known as Brugge (pronounced BROO-ghah in Flemish), around 5:30PM. Bruges is absolutely one of the most picturesque towns I have ever seen, full of beautiful canals and winding stone paved streets. A former trading center, Bruges had the same population as London in the 14th century, and was the most important cloth market in northern Europe. The 15th century saw Bruges as a refuge for peace from the Hundred Years’ War for the Dukes of Burgundy, and also saw artists Jan van Eyck and Hans Memling. However, by the 16th century, the economy had collapsed, leaving the city almost dead until tourists rediscovered it. And I am glad that they did! I spent the evening walking around what is called the Markt Square (Market Square), where the Belfort (Bell Tower) lies and surrounding canal streets. Most of the shops closed at 6:30PM, but I continued to window shop, especially for chocolate, which Bruges has many shops for. I also found St. Salvatorkoorst, a very beautiful cathedral. Tomorrow I am in search of more art from the two main museums Bruges has to offer!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Day Two: The Hague & Delft

Today was my second day in Amsterdam. I got breakfast at a nearby café, and ordered coffee, completely forgetting that I would be receiving a small espresso instead of my normal large drip coffee. But, on the bright side, they did give me a small spice cookie! I then made a day trip out to the Hague and Delft, which are about a 15 minute or so train ride away from each other. The Hague was about an hour out from Amsterdam. My purpose was to visit the Mauritshuis, the Royal Picture Gallery, home to many Dutch masters, and the ever mysterious “Girl with a pearl earring,” by Vermeer, known as the Mona Lisa of the North. The museum was only about a ten minute walk from the train station and very easy to find. The Mauritshuis collection was begun by Prince Willem V in the 18th century. When his son, King Willem I presented the collection to the Dutch nation it was called the Royal Picture Gallery, and was expanded from then on. The Mauritshuis itself is named for its first resident, Johan Maurits, and contains many 17th century portraits, still lifes, genre paintings, and landscapes from Holland. I was very excited to see some of the better known works, notably Rembrandt’s “Anatomy Lesson of Nicolaes Tulp,” and a “Self Portrait,” done in 1669 as an old man, as well as various paintings by Anthony van Dyck and Peter Paul Rubens. The collection also is home to a small selection of Flemish and German 16-17th century works including “The Lamentation of Christ” by Rogier van der Weyden and “Forest Scene,” by Gerard David. This was actually my first van der Weyden to see in person, which was amazing and had such intricate details of precious gems and tears on the figure’s faces. Other artists I enjoyed seeing were more of Jan Steen’s morality and irony paintings, a Quentin Massys “Madonna and Child,” and works by Jan Brueghel I. Additionally, the Mauritshuis was currently holding a temporary exhibit called “The Young Vermeer,” which displayed three of his early paintings, on loan from other museums. Out of the seven Vermeer paintings housed in the Netherlands, I have now seen them all! After walking around to see a little more of the Hague; I took a train over to nearby Delft. Unfortunately, because it was Sunday, barely anything was open in the town, including, oddly enough, the two old churches, as well as the Royal Delft Porcelain Manufacturing Company. So instead, I walked around the churches and did a little bit of window shopping. The town was extremely charming. I saw many people out walking, riding bikes, and even enjoying a paddle-boat ride down the canal! The houses were old, as were the brick streets and I would have loved to explore a little more. Next time!
Tomorrow is my last day in Amsterdam, and then I will be heading back down to Belgium to experience more sights and artworks.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Saturday May 22

Well, today begins the European Adventure! Early this morning I arrived in Brussels and then took a train up to Amsterdam. I was a little nervous about making a connecting train but it turned out that the platform I needed was about 8 feet away from the one I got off at. What luck! The Belgian countryside was gorgeous to watch rolling by. The architecture of the homes is so much different than what I am used to seeing and it seems that everyone has a bike! I saw a few fields of poppies on my way in but haven't come across any tulips yet. Hopefully that will be an adventure for tomorrow. I arrived in the Amsterdam Central Station in the afternoon and made a stop at the tourist information center for a map before checking into my hotel. After that, I decided to go ahead and see the Rijksmuseum. It took me a little while to figure out the tram system but I think I have the hang of it now. There are 2 tram lines that conveniently deposit you almost at the Rijksmuseum door! There were many artists' names in the museum I recognized from my studies but also many I did not. I was taking notes on several paintings and was asked if I was studying for something. In a way I suppose I am but it is more for my own benefit than for a grade, which is a nice change! Some old favorites included Frans Hals, Vermeer, Rembrandt, and Le Lorrain (who I was a little surprised to see there). Others I would like to know more about are Philips Konick, Jan Steen, and Johannes Torrentius. I also saw various large and unique pieces of blue and white Delftware as well as amazing silver works. My favorite in this category was a violin made from the ceramic material, it was beautiful. The Rembrandts and Vermeers also caught my eye; how could they not? I was not expecting the Vermeer paintings to be the size they were, but they all still have the same serene effect. "Woman Reading a Letter" by Vermeer was actually the first painting I ever saw by him in a book, to finally see it up close was absolutely amazing. The Night Watch was also incredible to stand in front of. The painting hung opposite a large Frans Hals, and was clearly winning the popularity contest, similar to the Mona Lisa in the Louvre. There were so many details in the real thing that I had never noticed or stopped to consider while looking at small pictures of the painting. I am still amazed I have finally gotten to see some of these works of art. Tomorrow I am taking a day trip out to the Hague and Delft to see the Mauritshuis. Until then!