Capitol Series #4: Oklahoma City

June 13, 2018

The day we arrived in Oklahoma City, we had time to visit the state capitol. As I’ve said before, every capitol building is unique in some way – the Oklahoma state capitol is the only one that is surrounded on all four sides with oil derricks! It is also the only one we’ve seen so far that has a monument to the native tribes of the state displaying the flags of each tribal nation.


In this view facing the front of the capitol, there is an oil derrick right in front, very close by!


There was a lot of construction going on.

On the approach to the entrance, there are large square bricks each denoting an important date in Oklahoma history.


Official state seal


In the rotunda – we found someone to take a photo of us standing on the Seal of the state of Oklahoma.
Looking up at the dome

Unlike the capitol in Santa Fe, where there were works of art on all the walls, in Oklahoma, the artwork is on display on the main floor through glass doors where there is a sign “Oklahoma State Art Collection.” Here are some of those works of art.


Alexandre Hogue (1898-1994), Red Earth Canyon, 1932, egg tempera



Richard Bivens (b. 1939), Painted Seed Jar, ca. 1983



Robert Terrence “Skip” Hill (b. 1961), The Dream Sower Papillon (2005), acrylic collage on canvas



Rick Sinnett (b. 1972), Guardian of the Mother Road (2011), serigraph 49/200



Katherine Gordon Rice (b. 1962), Tatiana, 1995, oil on acrylic on canvas



Brent Learned (b. 1969), Old Man (Arapaho), 2010, acrylic on canvas



Top: Stephen Mopope (1898-1974), Buffalo Hunter, no date, tempera on paper; Bottom: Woody Crumbo (1912-1989), Starlight, ca. 1940s, serigraph



Augusta I. Metcalfe (1881-1971), The Shaw Round Up  (1950), oil on wood panel



Laurie Spencer (b. 1958), Desert Dancer, 1988, ceramic with Terra sigillata slip

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Dolly & Cecil Lee, Dead Forest at Los Alamos, ca. 1995



Martha Wagner (1921-2006), I’m On to Oklahoma, no date, rug hooking, fiber, hand-dyed wool on a linen backing


O. Gail Poole (1935-2013), The First immigrants (Mind of Man), 1993, oil on paper



Glenda Green (b. 1945), Parasols, 1976, oil on linen

There was a hall of busts, but we did not go look at each of them.SONY DSC
On the third floor was a replica of the figure on top of the dome, of a Native American warrior to celebrate Oklahoma’s native heritage.

Dale took a photo of the actual statue when we went back  outside.

Below the dome, a few floors up, were semi-circular and trapezoidal murals depicting events in Oklahoma history.DSC_0795

We saw the door of the Senate chamber, but we could not enter because of construction.
We did, however, enter the reception area of the governor’s office and talked to the secretary. There was a display case of items the governor has received as gifts as well as a portrait of the governor herself.

We also were able to enter the chamber of the House of Representatives.
The ceiling was beautiful.
Some of the moldings in the hallways were quite ornamental and painted in pale green., salmon and gold.

On the main floor, where we were to exit the building, there was a mural that looked very real.
Outside, we visited the Tribal Flag Plaza with its circle of flags of each tribe including one that was blank, because the people of that tribe do not believe in symbolic representation.


Another of the four oil derricks is framed behind the circle of flags.

Near the plaza was a statue of a man on a horse, sculpted by Constance Whitney Warren of Paris, France and New York. It is a bronze tribute to the romantic riders of the range, according to a plaque on the front of the base, and was unveiled in 1930.


The most distant of the derricks, from our viewpoint, rose above a construction site and an adjacent building.




Artful: Georgia O’Keeffe

It has been awhile since I have posted my feature “Artful Photos” – series of photographs of art and artists. Granted, I have posted random street art from various places, but at an art museum I can focus on one theme or artist.

While we were in Santa Fe on June 12, we stopped in to view the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, where a collection of some of the artist’s best works are displayed. O’Keeffe moved to New Mexico after a visit to the Southwest and began incorporating the colors and shapes of the landscape in her paintings.
20180612_101005The great thing about this museum is that since it focuses on one artist, it is not too large and doesn’t take long to view the entire collection. It is the largest permanent collection of her work in the world.

Admission was $13 per adult; there is no Senior discount.

The museum is located at 217 Johnson St., Santa Fe, NM. To learn more, including how to visit her home & studio 60 miles north of Santa Fe, go to the museum’s website.


Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986) started her artistic training at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1905.


This painting by O’Keeffe, Sky Above Clouds IV (1963, oil on canvas), hangs over a stairwell at the Chicago Art Institute, where it is part of the museum’s permanent collection. (All other paintings in this post were photographed at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, NM.)


Untitled (Cherry Blossoms), 1903, water color and graphite on paper

Three years later, she no longer had the funds for artistic training, so she became a commercial artist for two years, then spent seven years teaching in Virginia, Texas and South Carolina, and continued her studies during the summers.

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Abstraction with Curve and Circle, (1915-1916), charcoal on paper

During this time, she was introduced to the principles and philosophies of Arthur Wesley Dow, who espoused created works of art based upon personal style, design, and interpretation of subjects. This caused a major change in the way she felt about and approached art and by 1915 began painting primarily in an abstract style.


The Black Iris (1926), oil on canvas


Autumn Trees – The Maple (1924), oil on canvas

She met Alfred Stieglitz, an art dealer and photographer, who exhibited her works in 1917, and who, in 1924, became her husband. By that time the couple was living and working in New York.

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The Barns, Lake George (1926), oil on canvas


Untitled (City Night), 1970s, oil on canvas. In later years, O’Keeffe returned to the subject of early paintings done in the 1920s. This painting is unusual because it was painted decades after the original work, City Night (1926), which was about 1/2 the size of this one.

O’Keeffe is well-known for her paintings of flowers which appear to resemble female genitalia, although she always denied this.


Bleeding Heart (1932), pastel on paper-faced cardboard


Series I White and Blue Flower Shapes (1919), oil on board


Bella Donna (1939), oil on canvas


Abstraction (1945), charcoal on paper

O’Keeffe and Stieglitz lived together in New York until 1929, when O’Keeffe began spending part of the year in the Southwest, which inspired her paintings of New Mexico landscapes and images of animal skulls.

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Mule’s Skull with Pink Poinsettias, (1936) oil on canvas

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Ram’s Head, Blue Morning Glory, (1938), oil on canvas

After Stieglitz’s death, she moved to New Mexico permanently at Georgia O’Keeffe Home and Studio in Abiquiú, but spent the last years of her life in Santa Fe.

O’Keeffe and photographer Michael Namingha visited a place with unusual rock formations that she called “The Black Place.” She did a series of paintings based on this place.SONY DSC


Black Place, Gray and Pink, (1949), oil on canvas


Black Place III, (1949), oil on canvas


Purple Hills Ghost Ranch – 2/Purple Hills No. 8 (1934), oil on canvas


Back of Marie’s No 4 (1931), oil on canvas

Besides skulls and landscapes, she painted subjects from Native American cultures, such as these kachinas.

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Kachina (1931), oil on wood

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Kachinas (1934), charcoal on paper

In her 70s, Georgia O’Keeffe travelled around the world, the airplane rides inspiring her Sky Above Clouds paintings. She visited Cusco and Machu Picchu, Peru, which inspired the two paintings below.


Machu Picchu I, (1957), oil on canvas


Untitled (Sacsayhuamán), 1857, oil on canvas. This painting shows the detail of Inca walls that make up this ancient fort, Sacsayhuamán. The Inca did not use mortar between the stones, but rather cut the stones to fit together perfectly.

In 2014, O’Keeffe’s 1932 painting Jimson Weed sold for $44,405,000, more than three times the previous world auction record for any female artist. The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum was established in Santa Fe after her death.

(Note: Some of the information above was obtained from Wikipedia.)

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Georgia O’Keeffe preparing salad for lunch, 1960 (Photo by Tony Vaccaro, gelatin silver print)

Artful: Impressionists in the Permanent Collection of the Art Institute of Chicago

These works are in the permanent collection at the Art Institute in Chicago. A gallery dedicated to the impressionists contains works by Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cézanne and Toulouse-Lautrec.

First are three works by Vincent Van Gogh, one of my favorite artists!


The Poet’s Garden, Vincent Van Gogh (Dutch, 1853-1890); 1888, Oil on canvas

The following painting, The Drinkers, was painted while Van Gogh was at Saint-Paul-de-Mausole asylum in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, France. Although he was very productive at this time, he struggled with self-confidence as an artist. to retrain himself, he made copies of admired works of other painters, which freed him from having to come up with original subjects, but also allowed him to concentrate on interpretation. The Drinkers was inspired by a black & white print by Honoré-Victorin Daumier, but the colors were his own invention.


The Drinkers, Vincent Van Gogh; 1890, oil on canvas

Van Gogh painted a series of still lifes involving fruit in 1887. He simplified his palette, emphasized vibrant colors, and used thicker, broader strokes than he had previously. In these works, he experimented with complementary colors (yellow and purple, blue and orange, red and green) to intensify the vibrancy.


Grapes, Lemons, Pears and Apples, Vincent Van Gogh; 1887, oil on canvas

Paul Gauguin was an accomplished sculptor as well as painter. In 1886, Gauguin was invited by ceramist Ernest Chaplet to create artistic pottery. Instead of using pre-made forms, Gauguin designed his own, which he jokingly called his “monstrosities.” This vase is decorated with both exotic and familiar motifs, including a goose taken from his paintings of Brittany and a Cambodian deity based on a photograph of a sculpture near Angkor Wat.


Vase in the Form of a Topical Plant with Bird and Deity, Paul Gauguin (French, 1848-1903); 1887/88, stoneware painted with slip and gold

Gauguin is famous for the paintings he made of life in Tahiti. His second trip there began in 1895. Over the next couple of years, he painted some impressive canvases that were larger than his former works. No te aha oe riri is based on an earlier painting, but the mood has changed, in that the figures are more disengaged. Although difficult to interpret, the question of the title invites the viewer to create his/her own narrative>


No te aha oe riri (Why Are You Angry?), Paul Gauguin; 1896, oil on jute canvas

Gauguin was keen to capture the flora and fauna of Tahiti. In Te raau rahi (The Big Tree), the big tree of the title is on the left.  In the middle is a tropical almond tree behind a group of banana leaves. On the right is a hibiscus bush with red flowers.


Te raau rahi (The Big Tree), Paul Gauguin; 1891, oil on canvas

At the Moulin Rouge is Toulouse-Lautrec’s most famous painting. He painted this scene of the Paris dance hall populated with regulars and habitues, including himself – the short figure in the background, accompanied by his cousin, the physician Gabriel Tapié de Céyleran, who is much taller. The woman on the right is the “scandalous” English singer, May Milton. At some point, the painting was cut to remove her from the scene, either by the artist or his dealer, but by 1914, it had been reattached to the painting.  If you look carefully, you can see on the lower right side, two faint perpendicular lines where the painting was cut.


At the Moulin Rouge, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (French, 1864-1901); 1892/95, oil on canvas

With this painting of the dance salon Moulin de la Galette, Toulouse-Lautrec became famous for depicting the entertainments and people of Montmartre. He used turpentine to thin his paint, applying it in loose washes. This technique is called peinture a l’essence.


Moulin a la Galette, Henri de Toulouse Lautrec; 1889, oil on canvas

A painting by Cézanne, The Vase of Tulips, was included in an earlier “FOTD (Flower of the Day)” post.


To accompany this post, I am posting a YouTube video of French composer Claude Debussy, Claire de lune. Claude Debussy (1862-1918) and Maurice Ravel were known as the Impressionist Composers, who lived in the same time period as the painters Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cézanne and Toulouse-Lautrec.











Artful: Chinese Ancient Bronzes & Music (Part 3)

This is the last part, Part 3, of the Chinese Ancient Bronzes exhibit at the Chicago Art Institute.

Besides the bronze objects themselves, the exhibit included rubbings and paintings of these objects, including of emperors surrounded by and admiring their collections of bronzes, and members of the intellectual elite studying them.

Depiction of Ruan Yuan appreciating bronzes with his son Ruan Changsheng and his friend Zhu Weibi.  Frontispiece from Jigutu (Illustration of Assembled Antiquities), 1802. Handscroll, ink and color on paper.



This painting depicts Wu Dacheng, surrounded by his collection of bronze vessels. Men like this were interested in interpreting the vessels’ inscriptions and studying them as historical documents.  Hu Xiang & Lu Hui, 1892, Frontispiece for Handscroll Collected Antiquities at Kezhai (Kezhai Jigutu) ;  ink and color on paper.

The following scroll is about 50 feet long and shows 45 bronze vessels in composite rubbbings. This and other scrolls like it were made by a group of skilled craftsmen for the celebrated collector Wu Dacheng (see his portrait above).


Collected Antiquities at Kezhai (Kezhai Jigutu), Before 1892; Handscroll, ink and color on paper, rubbings. 


An example of a contemporary artist’s rendition of an ancient bronze vessel is this painting of a wine vessel from the late Shang Dynasty (13th-11th centuries BCE); the original bronze vessel is located at the Shanghai Museum of Ancient Art.

Tai Xiangzhou (b. 1968), Painting of the Bucket of Minister Xi (Xiao Chen Xi You), 2017; ink on paper

Chinese artist Hong Hou (b. 1960) mixes painting and photography in a fusion of old and new.


Du Chin (Chinese, c. 1465-1487), Enjoying Antiquities (Wangutu), Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), ink and color on silk.


Hong Hao (Chinese, b. 1960), Appreciating Antiquities (Wangutu) from Elegant Gathering (Yaji), 2007, ink, color and digital images on paper. In this work, Hong Hao takes up the traditional theme of a gathering of intellectuals (yaji) and reinterprets it through digital photography, offering a perspective on the 21st century world.

Music was used in ancient rituals and was meant to imitate the sounds of nature.  Bells in varying sizes were often accompanied by an orchestra of traditional Chinese musical instruments.  The two videos from following these pictures were downloaded from YouTube. The first is music of Chinese bells alone, while the second has information and various examples of ancient Chinese music using bronze bells.


Bo Bell of Great Splendor (Dasheng Bozhong), Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127), bronze.




At the end of the exhibit was an activity: paper and pencils were provided to use to create our own “rubbings” of motifs commonly used in Chinese antiquities.









Artful Photos: Chinese Bronzes & Replicas (Part 2)

This is a continuation of photos Taken at the Chicago Art Institute of an exhibit of Chinese bronzes, March 6, 2018.

Beginning in the first century A.D. (C.E. – Common Era, which I will use in this post), there were two types of collectors of ancient bronzes: emperors and the elite scholar-officials (shidafu). Rulers saw these ancient artworks as a symbol of moral and political authority. From the 1100s onward, intellectuals and artists outside the imperial palace were also engaged in collecting and studying ancient bronzes, especially their inscriptions.

The following pieces were collected during the Song Dynasty (8th-12th centuries C.E.). 20180306_135421.jpg
The Song Dynasty instituted a civil service system based on Confucian principles. Scholars began studying antiquities systematically, cataloguing their physical features and inscriptions.
20180306_135640Emperor Huizong (ruled 1100-1126) of the Song Dynasty was the first Chinese emperor to enshrine collecting as a serious endeavor. He assembled a huge collection of ancient bronzes and replicated many of them.20180306_135649
Huizong attempted to establish a new political order by referring to a past that no longer existed.

In the Qing and Ming Dynasties, replicas were made of ancient bronzes using different materials.


Censer in the form of an ancient bronze tripod cauldron (Ding), Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), nephrite jade



Censer in the form of a ancient bronze rectangular cauldron (Fangding), Qing Dynasty, nephrite jade



Beaker in the form of an ancient bronze container (Zun), Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), Cloisonné



Censer in the form of an ancient bronze tureen (Gui), Ming Dynasty, Cloisonné

There were many different animal forms, which I especially liked.
This one looks like it was made of metal objects which were soldered together. Note the two-colored patterns on the side.
I also loved this beautiful red container, embossed with intricate repeated designs.
The following are two paintings of a set of 12 commissioned by Emperor Yongzheng, portraying palace consorts known as court beauties (meiren), surrounded by or using antiquities. The first is of a young woman looking into a mirror. The photo just below it shows the type of ancient bronze mirror she was using.


Court Lady Looking into a Mirror (from Twelve Beauties), artist unknown. She is sitting on a couch made from tree roots and looking into a bronze mirror. On the screen behind her is a poem that Yongzheng wrote.



Ancient bronze mirrors with inscriptions and decoration



A bronze jar (hu) from the Han Dynasty (206BCE-220CE) sits on the lacquered table where this lady sits. Behind her are cabinets of antiquities, including a beaker (gu) from the Shang Dynasty (c. 1600-1046 BCE) and a bell (bo) from the Zhou Dynasty (1046-256 BCE).

Part 3 next week will include paintings, rubbings, and music!









Artful Bronzes: Bronzes of Ancient China (Part 1)

At the Chicago Art Institute last month, we saw an exhibition of ancient Chinese bronzes.
Chinese emperors used to collect ancient bronzes to connect to the past and building their power in the present. These bronze objects mostly date from the 2nd and 1st centuries B.C.E. and had been found in tombs where they contained sacrifices to the ancestors, to accompany the deceased to the underworld, or commemorate family lineages in public ceremonies.

in later centuries, Chinese emperors considered these bronze vessels to be a sign of omens or blessings. Qianlong (1735-960, a powerful emperor of the Qing dynasty (1644-1911) had collected a huge number of artworks, including ancient bronzes, to underscore his power and express his worldview.



Jar (Hu) – Zhou dynasty (1046-771 BCE)

Bronze making in China arose from pottery traditions of the Neolithic era (before 2000 BCE). Bronze, an alloy of tin and copper, gave inhabitants of the region a substance that was harder and more durable than anything previously available.

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Pedestal tureen of Hu (Hu Gui), Western Zhou dynasty, bronze (from the Shanghai Museum)

Among the most common vessel types are the bucket (you), cauldron (ding), cup (zhi), food container (gui), jar (hu), stemmed bowl (dou) and wine container (zun). Modern archaeologists classify objects by form and function and still use the ancient names.



L-R: Beaker of Er (Er Zun), late Shang dynasty (1250-1046 BCE), bonze; Bucket of Recorder Huan (Zuo Ce Huan You), Western Zhou dynasty (1046-771 BCE), bronze; Beaker of Mother Zin (Mu Xin Zu), Western Zhou dynasty, bronze; Jar (Hu), late Shang dynasty, bronze. The bucket (second from left) had writing inside, from which rubbings were taken.

The following photo is of one of my favorites, because of the elaborate designs all around it.



Jar (Hu), Warring States period (475-221 BCE), bronze (from the Shanghai Museum)



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Pitcher of Father Ding (Fu ding Gong), late Shang dynasty, bronze

The Shang dynasty led to stability, prosperity, and various cultural developments, including a form of writing and a method of casting bronze using ceramic molds.


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Small Tripod Cauldron of Chang Zi (Chang Zi Ding), Western Zhou dynasty (1046-771 BCE), bronze (from collection of Art Institute of Chicago)



Mask, Western Zhou dynasty (1046-771 BCE), bronze



Clockwise from top left: Bird-shaped container (Zun), late Shang dynasty, bronze; Ram-shaped container (Zun), late Shang dynasty, bronze; Ox-shaped container (Zun), Shang dynasty (about 1600-1046 BCE), bronze


To be continued…







Artful Sculptures: Rodin at the Chicago Art Institute

Recently Dale and I went to the Art Institute for a special exhibit of sculptures by Rodin (1840-19170, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of his death.
Robert Louis Stevenson called Rodin the “master of visual communication.”


I Am Beautiful, modeled 1882, casted about 1889-1892, bronze

All of Rodin’s sculptures are reproductions of his original clay models. Many of the ones on display were from private collections.


The Hand of God, modeled 1898, cast date 1920s or earlier, bronze

The Hand of God was conceived as the creation of Adam and Eve, which Rodin imagined as an act of sculpting.


The Thinker, modeled 1880, cast date under research, bronze (side view)

Probably Rodin’s most famous sculpture, Rodin suggests the extreme physicality of mental activity, not only in his facial features but in every muscle of his arms, back and legs.


The Thinker, front view


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Despair, modeled between 1885-90, carved 1893 (?), marble


In Despair, Rodin invented a new pose – the figure’s act of stretching out and at the same time folding her body inward is evocative of emotional distress. This is the first example of this work; later plaster casts were taken to reproduce it in bronze.


Eternal Springtime, modeled about 1884, cast about 1910-mid 1920s, bronze

This vision of two young lovers was one of Rodin’s most popular compositions. Exact examples of it are extremely rare because it was technically difficult to produce. This bronze is the same version of the plaster that Rodin gave to Robert Louis Stevenson. Many later versions were made by adding a support for the male figure’s arms and legs.


Eve, modeled 1883, carved 1888 or earlier, marble

Rodin contracted specialist practitioners to carve multiple versions of Eve in marble, but no two are exactly alike. These two examples are among the earliest created; the example in front was produced in pure white marble, while the example on the right (which belongs to the Art Institute’s permanent collection) was made with a deeply veined marble.


Artful Amsterdam: The Van Gogh Museum

Jan. 31, 2018

It wasn’t until this trip that I learned to pronounce Van Gogh’s name properly; it’s not van-GO as we say in English, but rather vahn-GOG, as closely as I can approximate it phonetically.

The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam is definitely a must-see if you are a fan of the artist’s work. The main museum deals with his life and work, with an emphasis on his letters to his brother Theo and others. One wall contains a family tree to keep track of whose who – he had two sisters and another brother besides Theo.  Before we left for Amsterdam, we watched the movie Lust for Life, (IMDb review here) released in 1956, starring Kirk Douglas as Vincent Van Gogh. Kirk Douglas as Vincent Van GoghI realized from looking at Van Gogh’s self-portraits that the young Kirk Douglas did, in fact, look amazingly like Vincent!

The movie was a good introduction to the artist’s life, and the most important people in his life. I strongly recommend it as an introduction to his life and work.Kirk Douglas-Lust for Life

In the lobby of the main building are light panels which project quotes and paintings in rotation.
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1-31 Van Gogh Museum2


20180131_120118We were not allowed to take pictures in the main galleries which displayed original Van Gogh works, but we had both taken a couple before we were told not to.

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Still Life with Books by Vincent Van Gogh



Van Gogh self-portraits





The Yellow House – the house in Arles, France, where Vincent went to find peace and subjects to paint.

The reproductions of his works, which were blown up and covered entire walls, as well as his letters – similarly plastering the walls – were OK to photograph.147
Blown up on the walls were some of Van Gogh’s letters, especially to his brother Theo. In these letters, he would often include small sketches of things he was working on or something he was describing. I couldn’t read the letters, of course, being in Dutch, but there were some translated quotes posted here and there.


In this letter to Theo, he includes in the sketch the colors he plans to use for the painting – lilac, emerald, rose.



1-31 Van Gogh letters-Van Gogh Museum

In this letter, he sketched one of his most famous paintings, The Bedroom. There are actually three completed copies of this painting – he painted copies in case one or another should be destroyed, but each painting is slightly different than the others. This is a depiction of the bedroom in his house in Arles,  made famous by the painting The Yellow House.

148A second part of the museum displays artwork of modern artists who were influenced by Van Gogh’s work. This section is accessible via a underground walkway, or by exiting the main building and walking over to the smaller building across the square. We did not go to this smaller section.

The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam is located on Museumplein, near the most comprehensive Dutch art museum, Rijksmuseum.






Artful Amsterdam: “Na” in the Oude Kerk

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Oude Kerk, or “Old Church” is the oldest building still standing in Amsterdam.  Around it grew the Red Light District, so to get to it, you walk through part of this famous district! (We didn’t see much of it, only shop windows.)  SONY DSCThis, the first church in Amsterdam, was Catholic at one time, but later was turned into a Protestant, Dutch Reformed church.SONY DSCI had gotten the impression from Rick Steves’ book that these old Protestant churches were rather plain and dull. So it shouldn’t take long to see it, I thought. We had limited time and I wanted to tour Our Lord In the Attic church also.

Our I Amsterdam passes got us in free and we were handed a map and a newspaper, which the woman at the entrance said was about art – “it’s not just a church, but also a place for modern art,” she said.

I opened the map but found it confusing so I folded it up again. When we first walked into the church, I was startled by a voice asking something in Dutch coming from a wooden frame dressed in a black coat. Above the coat, attached to the top of the frame was a small lamp pointed downward.

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Altar at Oude Kerk

Most of the far wall was obscured by looming black rectangular shapes. They were covered with black plastic so I assumed some sort of renovation was going on.033 (16)There was also a strange sound echoing through the building – a high pitched wind sound. Dale thought it was the sound of some tool being used by the workers, although we didn’t see anyone working. In the center of the room, instead of pews, were rows of black coats lying on the floor.
033 (15)The floor itself had what looked like grave markers – I was familiar with this – many old churches had people buried under the floors. 033 (28)On the far end were a bunch of folding chairs draped also with black coats and against a dark partition at the back was an arrow pointing upward, made out of light bulbs. OK, I understood the point – the black coats represented people who had died or were buried here, but I didn’t understand how the arrow fit in with this theme.033 (32)


Then I heard whispering. It was coming from the rows of seats flanking the center, where the choir would sit. I had approached these because the back of the chairs had interesting figures carved on them. It must have been quite uncomfortable to sit with one’s back against these protrusions, I thought. Being a choir member myself, I always notice the accommodations for the choir when I visit other churches.033 (29)


033 (30)As I snapped some photos, I heard a whispering voice but couldn’t make out what it was saying. Some words seemed to be repeated – was it a macabre poem in Dutch, or an obscure religious text?
033-27.jpgHearing it a second time on the other side, I decided to take a short video so I could record the voice. This time I understood – it was whispering names: “Cornelia” was repeated twice, then other presumably unintelligible names. Who was Cornelia and why was she being summoned by this eerie whisper?

Only later, back in our apartment, when I read the paper we’d been given, did I really understand. There was no construction or renovation going on.  It was an art installation called Na by artist Christian Boltanski.

Oude Kerk - Na artist Christian Boltanski

Photo of artist Christian Boltanski standing in the Oude Kerk (scanned from newspaper about the exhibition).


The bulky black shapes represented looming tombstones of various heights. The names being whispered were those of the 8,000 people who were buried underneath the church! Somewhere there was a recording machine with an invitation for visitors to record their whispering one of these names. There is no distinction between male and female voices when they are whispering, so the voices would be anonymous. As for the names, they were all printed in a small book near the entrance, which I missed completely. The questions posed by the anonymous black coats on frames were meant to make the visitor wonder about the dead: “Did you suffer when you died?” Each question was different. Being in Dutch, I could not contemplate these questions regardless.


Oude Kerk - Na - lightbulbs in doorway

“Crepuscule” – Through wires, 158 (the number of days of the exhibition) lightbulbs are connected on the floor. As time passes, one lamp will automatically be switched off at noon every day until all of the lights have faded on the last day of the exhibition.


The newspaper article concludes, “With his work, Christian Boltanski (b. Paris, 1944) inquires about the life and death of anonymous people and groups whose history is in the process of fading away.  In the Oude Kerk artists hold meanings from the past up to the light again, adding new pages to (art) history with their work.

The exhibition Na runs from Nov. 24, 2017 through April 29, 2018 at the Oude Kerk, Amsterdam.

Artful Amsterdam: The Rijksmuseum

The Rijksmuseum is the largest art museum in Amsterdam, with a collection of one million pieces. Established in 1800, it is on most everyone’s “must see” list of things to do when visiting Amsterdam.

The current Rijksmuseum (which means “State Museum”) was designed by the Dutch architect, Petrus J. H. Cuypers, who also designed the Concertegebouw and the Centraal Station, and opened in 1885.  The building is Dutch neo-Renaissance style, using neo-Gothic elements in its decoration. It is located in Museumplein, or Museum Square, where you also find the Van Gogh Museum, the modern art Stedelijk Museum, and the Moco Museum (also modern art). The Rijksmuseum’s imposing façade dominates the square.  Although its design is from the 19th century, the Netherlands is very environmentally conscious, so improvements have been made, including solar panels on the roof!

We visited on a drizzly day, Jan. 29, 2018, having flown into Amsterdam overnight and taken time for a nap before we ventured out sightseeing.


Dale in Museumplein; behind him is the Rijksmuseum.

1-29 Rijksmuseum front facade

There was an ice skating rink and large letters spelling out “I amsterdam” – which attracted many people for a photo opp or selfie.


Outside the museum, it is worthwhile to pause to admire the gardens and the façade itself.



At the entrance, we stopped to admire two statues, of Laocoön (being attacked, along with his two sons, by serpents) and Diana (goddess of hunting, who had the power to talk to animals) two figures of Greek & Roman mythology:

With our “I Amsterdam” passes (which we ordered online and picked up at the airport when we arrived) we were able to get into the museum free. I strongly recommend ordering this pass for anyone visiting Amsterdam, because it is good not only to get into museums free, but also free passage on the trams and buses. You order by the day, so that you pay only for the number of days you will be there.

Inside the museum, you enter the atrium, renovated in 2013. From here you can see, half a story below, the gift shop, and directly above it, the restaurant/cafeteria.

There is no way you can see this entire museum in one day, which is why we decided to concentrate on the 17th century, the century during which many of the most famous Dutch masters lived and worked. Each floor is dedicated to the art of a particular century. We went to the 2nd floor where the works of Rembrandt and his contemporaries are displayed.

On the stairway to the second floor:

At the top of the stairs, we entered the Great Hall, with stained glass windows depicting painters, philosophers and others. The floor tiles contain beautiful designs, and the walls are covered with artwork.


1-29 Rijksmuseum




The 2nd floor contains the Gallery of Honour, through glass doors from the Great Hall, with small rooms lining each side, each dedicated to a particular artist.  At the entrance to each, there are laminated cards in various languages that explain what to look for in that display.

Temporarily on display was a triptych, The Last Judgement, by 16th century Dutch artist Lucas van Leyden.

On the back of each side of the triptych are other paintings.

At the far end of the Gallery of Honour is Rembrandt’s famous painting, Night Watch.

There were other Rembrandts to see, of course, my favorite being The Jewish Bride.

We wandered through the rooms which formed a continuous rectangle entered through doors on either side of the Great Hall.

I took several photos with my cellphone camera, but unfortunately, these were all lost with my phone on the last day of our trip, at the airport in Tanzania! 😦

I include here a few taken by Dale, who is not in the habit generally of also taking a photo of the plaque alongside that identifies the name of the painting, the artist, etc.



We both liked this sculpture, called Topers (Drinkers) by Jan Pieter van Baurscheit (1669-1728), Antwerp, c. 1700, symbolizing gluttony. The sculpture impresses upon its viewers a moral lesson, that excessive drinking undermines the work ethic and leads to laziness. The sculptor may have been inspired for this piece by popular theatre, in which characters such as these are often portrayed.

When we were just about finished viewing all the rooms on the 2nd floor, there was an announcement that the museum was going to close in half an hour! I was amazed – we’d been there for two and a half hours. Fortunately, the announcer also informed us that the gift shop and the restaurant would stay open an additional hour, until 6:00 p.m.  Dale gave me some time to do a bit of shopping in the gift shop and then we went to the restaurant to have a snack – Dale had coffee and a brownie, and I ordered hot chocolate and a muffin.  It was a relief – we were quite exhausted!
1-29 enjoying a snack at Rijksmuseum