"Paintings have a life of their own that derives from the painter's soul." Vincent Van Gogh

Friday, June 10, 2016

European Odyssey Comes to an End

European Odyssey 24x30 oil on canvas

 The finished painting - I wanted to celebrate our trip in a painting that showed the exuberance and joy of our experience together as a family.

And some final photos of the magical city of Rome to share with you:

Ruins of the Roman Forum with rose garden in full bloom!

Piazza del Popolo with the Leonardo da Vinci Museum

The Vatican inner courtyard

Laocoon - what an amazing sculpture. I was mesmerized by the strength and emotion of this piece.

Some "marble taxidermy "and one of the most interesting rooms of sculpture in the Vatican Museum!

The Hall of the Muses

Raphael Room in the Apostolic Castle

The Sistine Chapel - what a masterwork it is! Much more impressive than any photo could ever show!

Entry to St. Peter's Basilica

The Pieta- sublimely beautiful and most definitely the highlight of the trip for me.

Inside St. Peter's

Bernini sculpture

Doorway relief sculpture

Inside the Tomb of the Popes underneath the Basilica - no photos allowed :0!

On this trip, our European odyssey, I saw and experienced things that I never dreamed or imagined. Upon returning home, I felt an overwhelming connection to the people of the past and to the history of mankind through the ages. This feeling came more through my experiences of living in the ancient cities for a time and sharing their cultures than it did from antiquities in a museum or a church. I found that people are open and friendly, are eager to share their own stories and to make connections. On the last day in Amsterdam before our long flight home, I had a chance to meet up with a Scottish friend of mine that I had not seen in almost 30 years. Seeing Gwen and her husband and introducing her to my family was perhaps the best ending that such a magical trip could ever have had.

Friday, June 3, 2016

On the Easel - and Rome!

Untitled / 24 x 30 / oil on canvas
 Still on the easel - this is at least the third painting on this particular canvas - the other two being wipe offs. I wonder if I will keep this one......

And then there was Rome! What a magnificent city - so ancient and so new. I loved every minute of exploring it. This is the lobby of the Marriott Grand Flora Hotel with hundreds of tennis balls hanging from the ceiling - we discovered that the Italian Tennis Open was being played in Rome the week we were there. We had a magnificent room - complete with feather mattress on the bed and balcony over looking the Borghese Villa and gardens. I had no trouble falling asleep in Rome!

Marriott Grand Flora Hotel - Rome

 The daytime view from our balcony overlooking the Borghese ruins. The Vatican was not far in this direction also and the American Embassy was a short walk down the street. It was a perfect location.

Some incredible churches that we happened upon as we explored Rome - we saw so many - each one more beautiful than the last.

Church interior with mass in progress

Church with gorgeous life size wooden crucifixion carvings

A not atypical church entry
 The Pantheon is in such perfect condition you would think it was built yesterday however it was completed by the Emperor Hadrian in about 125 AD. The rotunda is resplendent with sculptures and art work and is still the world's largest unreinforced concrete done. The Pantheon is still actively used as a church with masses held every Sunday and has also functioned as a tomb. I was surprised to learn that the painter Raphael, 2 Italian kings and a queen are all buried here.

The Pantheon - under the rotunda

Inside the Pantheon

Roman rooftops
 Our next stop was the Colosseum. We spent several hours there exploring and wondering about the intricate Roman engineering that allowed it to function. Not only did it house the gladiators and many very large, wild animals beneath the main arena - there were very sophisticated mechanisms for moving them about and up to the arena. And did you know that it was occasionally flooded and ships held mock battles there? It was an almost inconceivable drainage system that allowed this to occur.

My family and I at the Colosseum  - typical tourists!

The Colosseum held over 50,000 people and it was not hard to imagine the spectacles that unfolded here.

Inside a Roman delicatessen!
What a holiday trip - and more yet to tell you about!

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Sammy, Breitner and Albert Cuyp

Sammy-A Connoisseur of Comfort / oil on linen panel / 12x16

 Completed this morning, my friend's cat  Sammy catching some zzzz's!

While we were in Amsterdam, the Rijksmuseum had a Georges Breitner exhibit of 20 paintings and sketches in his Girl in a Kimono series. They are all thought to be of one model, Geesje Kwak and were painted between 1983 and 1896.  Interestingly, Breitner and Van Gogh met and spent some time sketching together outdoors. But apparently Breitner never liked Van Gogh's work stating, "I can't help it, but to me it seems like art for Eskimos, I cannot enjoy it. I honestly find it coarse and distasteful, without any distinction..."

Next, we headed to the Albert Cuyp Market - a huge, teeming outdoor market with over 300 vendors lining both sides of one long street and selling every kind of food imaginable as well as flowers and clothing.

Next stop - Rome!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Day 2 - Amsterdam

Early the next morning found us in line with our tickets to the Rijksmuseum. Its a beautiful structure and there was an orchestra playing Vivaldi under the central arch to greet us - what a treat that was!

Rijksmuseum on Museum Square

The ticket desk and entrance is through this light filled inner atrium with a lovely cafe on the second level.
Rijksmuseum inner atrium
At the end of a long gallery called the Hall of Fame hung with Rembrandt portraits, Vermeer's The Milkmaid and other astounding paintings, you find yourself in the Night Watch Room as seen in the photo below.

The Night Watch Room
Other wise known as the Militia Company of District II under the Command of Captain Cocq (1642), the Night Watch is so large that it is almost impossible to imagine Rembrandt painting it so perfectly with great attention to faces and gestures. It was painted to adorn the guild hall and shows the captain dressed in black ordering his lieutenant to begin marching. The young girl with the light catching her so beautifully was the company mascot. It is awe inspiring!
The Night Watch
 And hung on the next wall I was thrilled to see Rembrandt's The Conspiracy of Claudius Civilis (1661). The painting was commissioned by the city of Amsterdam to adorn the newly built Town Hall but was returned to Rembrandt after hanging there for only a short while. The reason for the return is undocumented.

The Conspiracy of Claudius Civilis 1661-1662

 Some other treasures from the museum:

Terrracotta sculpture of horse and rider

Democratus & Heraclitus by Hendrick Brugghen 1628

Banquet Still Life 1644 by Adriaen Utrecht

The Great Hall, which was formerly the entrance to the museum, is adorned with stained glass windows reaching up to a vaulted ceiling. This one was commissioned in 1882 by William Dixon of London to show the Art of Painting and features Rembrandt, Apelles and Van Leyden among others.

The Art of Painting stained glass
 And an ancient, heart stopping crucifix from the year 1260.

Crucifix 1260

I could go on and on as the museum is filled with countless treasures of art and of Dutch history but instead I will leave you with this evening photo of the wonderful Central Station building which was a short walk from our hotel. It is of Gothic/Renaissance style architecture and was designed by Pierre Cuypers who also designed the Rijksmuseum.

Central Station

In my next post, I will tell you about  a special exhibit at the Rijksmuseum and our visit to the Albert Kuiper Market.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Back in the USA!

Wow! What an incredible holiday my husband and I had in Europe with our two children - the experience of a lifetime for all of us. It went by much too quickly but it was good to get home and sleep in my own bed.

Of course, once the jet lag abated, I couldn't help but hurry back to my easel.

Doberman Deliberation oil on linen panel 16 x 12
Flying from the west coast to Amsterdam is no picnic but we made it in one piece and my daughter (who lives in Amsterdam) and my son (who arrived on a flight just an hour earlier) met us in front of my daughters flat.

Our first glimpse of a canal - and the weather could not have been more glorious! My daughter warned me to pack warm clothing as just the day before it was cold and the wind was howling but I never needed any of it! We brought sunshine and warmth with us.

 The red boats can be rented for tours - there are lots of people living on houseboats lining the canals and some of the homes seen from the water are magnificent with stunning and unique architecture.

The crooked house - a famous Amsterdam landmark.

The very next morning we made our way to the Van Gogh Museum, we were there early and the crowds were not too bad although they got heavier as the day progressed. Its a good idea to purchase tickets in advance as the ticket-holders line is shorter and moves much faster.

The museum has a separate gallery dedicated to self portraits - Van Gogh did many and there were quite a few I had never seen before. Many of them appeared to be studies with paintings on both sides of the canvas.

Self Portrait 1888

Red Cabbages and Onions
 There was so much life and vitality in this still life - those veggies could have rolled right off the canvas.
 Magnificent - and beautifully displayed on a dark charcoal wall making it shine like a beacon in the gallery.
 A favorite of mine as the brush work is so fearless, so effortless.

I left the museum feeling that Vincent had given me a very personal lesson in painting - one I will long remember.

As you might imagine, I took hundreds of photos and,over the next few days and weeks, I will share some of them here on my blog in a chronology of our trip but will try not to go overboard!

More to come!