Tag Archives: painters

Traveling in Europe: Den Haag

Europe 2011: Den Haag

Known as The Hague to us Westerners, I prefer the Dutch version of Den Haag. While staying in Delft, I decided to go to Den Haag, thinking I’d need to catch a train but from my B&B in Delft it was an easy 20-minute tram ride. Very convenient. The weather, for late September, was off and on rainy but overall very nice and warm. I arrived close enough to the Binnenhof, the seat of the Dutch parliament to walk around the central area.

I’m not sure how interested I would have been in the Binnenhof’s interior but as it was there were no tours that day.

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The Binnenhof neogothic fountain

There was a lovely and ornately wrought iron and gilt fountain and the details on the buildings, some of the dating to the 15th century. Mauritshuis was close by and I took it in. Here is where you would see Johannes Vermeer’s Girl with the Pearl Earring among others. In fact the building was full of paintings in various rooms. Once the home of Prince John-Maurice, there are four major rooms on two floors and each has a fireplace and paintings on all walls, There are works by Holbein, Potter, Brueghal, Rembrandt, Steen , Hals and many others. Of course in all the best galleries you can’t take pictures so you absorb as much as you can and hope you can retain some of it. The benefit of seeing the actual painting as opposed to a picture in a book is that you can appreciate how the light actually works with the paint, as well as its thickness, the texture and the details. The Dutch were masters of shipping and masters of the painted canvas in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Besides wandering around the Binnenhof’s courtyard, staring at the buildings and going to Mauritshuis, I had time to go to the Prison Gate (just) called Gevangenpoort. This is the jail, which was in use for over 400 years before it became a museum in the 1400s. It was dark and thick-walled, and thick barred. I couldn’t use a flash and the tour was in Dutch so I only gleaned a bit. Though the guide was willing to answer some of my questions in English I didn’t want to ask during his descriptions in case I asked

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The Binnenhof and the Court Pond

for something he had just said. It seems that there were different types of torture and only some of it was actually considered torture. This was done in the lower cells, where as the room depicted in my pictures was for those who were either to be executed or have information extricated from them. There was a gallery of art too so it was a rather full day of paintings.

This took up my day in The Hague and I went back to Delft for dinner and to wander along the pretty canals. So in truth I saw a very small section of Den Haag, which only took up a few blocks. Still, that was rather enough for one day.

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Arts, Culture and Politics

Stephen Harper made a statement that Canadians didn’t want to pay for artists to stand around at galas, which didn’t relate to the ordinary person. Here’s his lovely open-minded comment:

I think when ordinary working people come home, turn on the TV and see … a bunch of people … at a rich gala all subsidized by taxpayers claiming their subsidies aren’t high enough when they know those subsidies have actually gone up, I’m not sure that’s something that resonates with ordinary people.

So let’s see, ordinary people. Hmm, he’s saying artists aren’t ordinary. So who is: police, cashiers, neurosurgeons, unemployed street people? Just, who, Mr. Harper, is ordinary and who isn’t? We “artists,” writers, musicians, dancers, painters, sculptors, singers, actors, etc. aren’t ordinary. Hell, we float down from the clouds, perform our works and then go back to gilded halls of champions. We don’t need to buy food, pay rent, sleep or socialize. We’re aliens I guess, living in our special niches high on the rocks.

He even mentioned taxpayers. No body told me, that as an extraordinary artist person that I can actually not pay taxes. I’ll apply for that right away since I’m a taxpayer and an artist but I therefore can’t be ordinary. Oh and I go to galas every week, in my head maybe. Galas, puhleeze, Mr. Harper, get your facts straight and stop making sweeping generalizations. As a taxpayer, an ordinary person I very much want to see the culture of my country and not a carbon copy of the US’s culture. I want to have Canadian individuality.

The only “galas” I’ve ever gone to have been those I’ve paid for and usually at conventions. Granted I’m a small peas writer and not a big name singer or actor but all of those people have worked hard and long to get where they’re going. Should we never have a gala to recognize the best in their fields? Is this is what Harper is suggesting? Just how many galas are there? I bet there are fewer than the ones the politicians attend especially when they’re doing fundraising for their campaigns.

Art and culture consists of far more than watching TV, Mr. Harper. It involves plays, concerts, art for walls and halls and front lawns of government buildings. It involves things to read and things to look at, a break for the “ordinary person” from the dreariness or just plain hard work of a job. It provides entertainment and humor, and a release of tension. It provokes joy and sorrow with deeper thoughts and discourse into our everyday life. The pen is mightier than the sword for a reason.

Speaking of swords and other sports, if you subsidize athletes, artists of the body as much as dancers are, then why not subsidize the arts? It all falls under entertainment.  Many regimes through history have tried to muzzle their artists. The governments fear what the art may point fingers at. China is an example of some of the muzzling being done. But I’d say that Harper’s gang is trying to muzzle any arts they disapprove of and doesn’t represent the views they want put forward.

I have to go now and put on my subsidized ball gown so I can go to another subsidized artists’ gala that all those ordinary people are going to watch on TV but not care about. But one last point to Stephen Harper: perhaps if you didn’t slash funding to the arts and censor it, then you might have got a truly original speech all those years ago as opposed to having to use the Australian prime minister’s recycled speech. plagiarized

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