Lockdown eases and ‘normality’ returns in the Netherlands

Getting out and about again
The lockdown has been eased a lot quicker in NL than in the UK. Hairdressers, restaurants, cafes, some museums and non-essential shops opened on 1st June. So it was with some excitement that Frank and I headed to The Hague to see the Stubbs exhibition in het Mauritshuis last week. I booked a slot for 2pm and as we arrived early spent some time looking at the building which houses the seat of government next to the museum.

It had been something of a trial cycling through the busy and noisy city (We parked on the outskirts of town with bikes in the back.) But once inside the museum an oasis of tranquility embraced us. We were the only customers in the cafe and it felt slightly surreal to order food (chocolate and carrot cake) and sit down and be served by someone. It was the first time we had done that in months!

Horse Painter
The George Stubbs exhibition comprises 13 paintings and 10 anatomical drawings of horses within one exhibition space. Although Stubbs is recognised as one of the most important painters of the eighteenth century in Britain, he is relatively unknown in the Netherlands and it is the first time his paintings have been shown here. Stubbs is most famous for his equestrian work but he also painted other animals such as dogs and even a kangaroo!
The life-size portrait of Whistlejacket really steals the show, dominating the room with its presence. The story goes that when Whistlejacket saw his portrait he acted as if encountering another stallion, snorting and pawing the ground with macho bravado. The owner purportedly told Stubbs he didn’t need to add a background to the painting because it had convinced the horse of its life-likeness and that was good enough for him.

Stubbs, the obsessive
In 1756 Stubbs moved into a farmhouse in a village in Lincolnshire. During an eighteen- month period he dissected 12 horses and made detailed drawings as he worked. He was particularly interested in the skeletons, muscles and tendons. In order to study the horses they were suspended from the ceiling so in the drawings they appear to be walking or standing. I will spare you the gruesome details but because there was no refrigeration in those days for transportation of carcasses, the horses did not die of natural causes although they were reportedly old.
Stubbs must have had a strong stomach and a stoical nature! Imagine the stench and horror of it all. Essentially, he needed the knowledge of horses’ anatomy to improve his skill as a painter, but in 1766 he published his drawings in ‘The Anatomy of the Horse,‘ a work which was also of great interest to scientists and vets.

Iconic Paintings
Of course, ‘the Girl with the Pearl Earring’ by Vermeer is also on display, as is, ‘the Goldfinch’ by Fabritius, along with many other iconic Dutch paintings. It was a privilege to view these artworks in so much peace. Each exhibition space allowed limited numbers of visitors. The maximum number was displayed on the threshold of each room. I highly recommend a visit to this museum, but don’t forget to reserve a slot. And above all, don’t forget the excellent chocolate cake!

About susancarey

Angela writes using pseudonym, Susan Carey. She has dual nationality, GB/NL and lives in Amsterdam. Susan has had short fiction published on multiple platforms and was a runner-up in the 2018 and 2017 Casket of Fictional Delights Flash Competitions. Every year she is crazy enough to take part in Nanowrimo, and has done so successfully since 2009. Her writing has also been published and performed by amongst others; Mslexia, Liars’ League, Reflex Fiction, the Casket and of course the wonderful Writers Abroad. She has a love hate relationship with her adopted hometown and often dreams of living in a thatched cottage, far from the madding crowd.
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6 Responses to Lockdown eases and ‘normality’ returns in the Netherlands

  1. Joanna says:

    ‘Het nieuwe normaal’. This sounds like a good way to spend a day off in this period of time. Love the painting of the horses!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ah, how lovely to do the things again that we all used to do as a matter of course! Thanks for sharing your trip to the Mauritshuis. I’d love to see the Girl with the Pearl Earring. Hope I make it one day!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. janimacdc says:

    Hi Angela

    Good to know you can get out and about again, think it must have been quite difficult for you in an apartment.

    We’ve been so lucky here with lots of work in the garden and Bobs supermarket with a continual selection of plants and produce and being able to ride every day has been a real bonus.

    I also think having Ian and Annette has been good too as we always seem to be able to laugh at something. They’ve now found a house, by coincidence in Little Dewchurch, and have had their offer accepted, so now just waiting for the solicitors to get their act together. We will miss them when they go.

    Slowly coming out of lock down, had friends for coffee this morning and we been to both Andy and Nobbys and Mike and Lou’s for drinks. Hoping to go to Bath at the weekend to see the kids, so that will be a real treat.

    Take care and stay safe Jan xx


    Liked by 1 person

  4. susancarey says:

    Thanks for bringing me up to date on your news, Jan!


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