Experiencing Art in The Hague
Story and Photos by Terri Marshall
Home to the International Peace Palace, The Hague is one of the Netherlands’ most extraordinary cities. With 118 embassies, it is truly a city of diplomats and the beating heart of Holland. This “Royal City by the Sea” provides visitors with the best in shopping, cuisine, historical points of interests and art. Admittedly, I have never studied art and am far from a fine art connoisseur, but the magnitude of the artwork throughout The Hague was captivating…giving me a new appreciation for the masterful artists who bring us so much beauty.
One of The Hague’s most intriguing art centers is Mauritshuis located in a 17th-century classical townhouse in the city center on the banks of the Parliament Pond. After undergoing a two year renovation, Mauritshuis reopened June 27th with an opening ceremony attended by His Majesty King Willem-Alexander. The Mauritshuis’ 17th century building has been painstakingly restored and renovated to upgrade the facilities. A Royal Dutch Shell Wing has been added on the adjacent site and linked to the original building via a brilliantly lit underground foyer. The addition doubles the museum’s floor space and provides space for new exhibition galleries and a permanent education space. The seamless blend of old and new architecture only enhances its beauty.
The reopening sees the return of the Mauritshuis’ world-famous collection of Dutch art, following a major tour of select masterpieces to six cities internationally. The touring collection included Johannes Vermeer’s Girl with the Pearl Earring. She’s home now and elegantly displayed alongside masterpieces representing the very best of Dutch Golden Age painting. Standing in the Mauritshuis surrounded by the works of Dutch masters, Vermeer, Rembrandt, Frans Hals, Jan Steen and Flemish painters such as Rubens, Bruegel and Memling, it is clear why the Mauritshuis is often referred to as a jewel box. www.mauritshuis.nl/en
Elsewhere in town, the works of Piet Mondriaan including his last unfinished work, Victory Boogie- Woogie, are on display in Gemeentemuseum. Designed by architect H.P. Berlage, Gemeentemuseum Den Haag is a pinnacle of modern architecture. This museum features interesting exhibitions throughout the year focusing on visual arts and crafts and fashion, but is primarily known for the work of Mondriaan. The museum’s collection includes Mondriaan’s early, realistic works and chronicles various stages of his work. Throngs of tourists pose beside Victory Boogie-Woogie and that includes President Barack Obama who posed for a photo by the famed work during a recent visit to The Hague.
The museum also owns one of the largest and most beautiful collections of Delft Blue in the world. Housed in the Style Rooms of The Hague Municipal Museum, the exhibition provides a comprehensive overview of the history of four centuries of Delft and includes everything from simple plates to elaborate tulip vases. www.gemeentemuseum.nl/en
For a true immersion in art, step into the largest painting of the Netherlands and travel back in time to the old fishing village, Scheveningen, as it was in 1881. Painted by Hendrik Willem Mesdag in 1880 with the assistance of his wife and many student painters, the Panorama Mesdag is a 360 degree optical illusion of the village. From an observation gallery in the center of the room the cylindrical perspective creates the illusion of standing on a high sand dune overlooking the sea, beaches and the village. Sand and scattered beach items in the foreground hide the base of the painting and make the illusion more convincing. Each viewing is unique as the light filters in at various angles throughout the day.
The Panorama Mesdag is the oldest 19th century panorama in the world in its original site and a unique cultural heritage. Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh once said “Mesdag Panorama is the most beautiful sensation of my life. It has just one tiny flaw and that is its flawlessness.”
From June through September, the art spills into the streets of the historic city center, Lange Voorhout, for the annual Sculptures in The Hague – a large-scale art manifestation. Following successful country themes of China, South Africa and Russia, this year’s display, Grandeur, features contemporary sculpture from France by young, upcoming sculptors. Grandeur includes such eye-catching and whimsical sculptures as a giant cake and a sculpture of a plastic patio set large enough to seat four massive giants.
Extend your art focused visit in nearby Delft, the hometown of Johannes Vermeer and the setting for the story of Girl with the Pearl Earring. Vermeer was born in Delft in 1632 and lived and worked there all his life. Step into the 17th century at The Vermeer Center for a visual voyage through the life and work of this Dutch master. The center has a replica of Vermeer’s studio which illustrates his approach to his work and how he mastered the light, composition and color in his paintings.
Many of Vermeer’s paintings are about love. Sometimes the love theme is
obvious but at other times, it is obscure. On the second floor of the Vermeer Center, the exhibition “Love messages from Vermeer” exposes the secret love messages revealed in his paintings, which include romantic love, seducing love, paid love and the inaccessible love. www.vermeerdelft.nl
Once you have viewed the amazing collection of Delft Blue at Gemeentemuseum, the Royal Delft Experience is the place to go to journey through the present, past and future of the iconic blue earthenware. The Royal Delft Experience starts with an impressive story about the history of Royal Delft followed by a tour through the museum and the factory. Be inspired by a painting demonstration by one of the talented artists illustrating the techniques used to hand paint each piece of earthenware.
After a few days of art in The Hague and Delft, you may be inspired to discover your inner artist. Royal Delft gives you that opportunity with workshops where you can try your hand at painting your own piece of Delft Blue. As for me, I will continue to appreciate the talents of the artists and leave the painting to someone else! www.royaldelft.com
Where to Stay:
While visiting The Hague, spend the night in elegance at the Carlton Ambassador Hotel. This boutique hotel situated on a lane lined with old chestnut provides a quiet haven to retreat to at the end of your day. www.carlton.nl/ambassador/default-en.html
Terri is a freelance writer with regular columns on travel, chocolate and bar reviews. She is busy each month visiting new places to bring unique travel destinations and events to you. Yes, it is a sacrifice – but she is willing to do that for her readers! You can see more of Terri’s writing at www.examiner.com where she is the National Chocolate Examiner and at www.barzz.net. Also, check out her blog at www.trippingwithterri.com. You can contact Terri at firstname.lastname@example.org.