Saturday, September 15, 2012

My Favorite Paintings at Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Six years ago, when I visited the great city Amsterdam, the Rijksmuseum was under renovation - it is set to re-open on 13 April 2013 after almost ten years's effort.  Mercifully, the museum put the cream of its collections to a wing and I was able to see some of the amazing works, amongst them, my Favorite Paintings are one Vermeer and one Rembrandt.  No surprise here.

To me, The Milkmaid or The Kitchen Maid by Johannes Vermeer, a tranquil domestic scene, was one of the most beautiful and enchanting paintings ever produced in the human history.  It was bold and delicate - look at the intense blue and yellow hues, so strongly contrasted and yet so harmoniously co-existed, furthermore, all the colors were luminous and glowing, without competing one another for dominance.  The details of the daily objects were meticulously done, not to show off the painter's skill, but to create a reality in suspended in time, and to depict the crystal clear northern light.

The Milkmaid, ca. 1660, Johannes Vermeer, Oil on CanvasHeight: 45.5 cm, Width: 41 cm

I could not say better than the description on the Museum's website: "One of Vermeer's most admired paintings is The Milkmaid. She stands in front of a window pouring milk into a bowl, deep in concentration, her head slightly tilted to one side. The daylight streaming in draws the viewer's attention automatically to the pouring milk. This is depicted so perfectly that you can practically see and hear the milk pouring. It is the only action taking place in the room."

The Vermeer painting was small scaled and intimate and the The Company of Captain Frans Banning Cocq, known as The Night Watch, by the master Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn was grand and public. 

The Company of Captain Frans Banning Cocq, 1642, Oil on Canvas
Height: 379.5 cm, Width: 453.5 cm

For this commissioned work by the militia company, Rembrandt didn't follow the convention of painting the gentlemen sitting or standing in rows facing the viewers like mannequins, rather, he positioned the figures in a lively scene - the captain issued command, flag raised, drum beat, horned blew, children running amongst the throng.  Nothing but static and boring.  Again, we are enchanted by the marvelous play of light and dark.  However, the painting was not so dark to begin with and it became a "night scene" only after the changing of the paints the master employed.

Night or day, it was one of the most memorable group portraits ever created. If some of the figures felt cheated because their full faces were not shown, we, the viewers, however, must be grateful for Rembrandt's confidence and courage.

I am very partial to this painting because I had the opportunity to see its full scale replica in San Francisco, in a private home turned museum.

Since I only sampled the highlights of the Rijksmuseum collection, a return to Amsterdam is a must once Rijks reopened.

My Favorite Museum Collection Series

>> My Favorite Museum Collection Series 51: My Favorite Paintings at Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam
<< My Favorite Museum Collection Series 49: My Favorite Paintings in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, UK

List of My Favorite Artworks in the Museums I've Visited

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