On August 5, we all rose early, packed up the overnight strays, said goodbye to the apartment we so enjoyed as part of our successful stay in Amsterdam, and headed in our rental car to Schiphol, where we dropped Veronica off for her return to New York. We were delighted that Veronica found Amsterdam interesting and to her liking, its small scale, walkability, and undeniable charm making it, among other things, manageable for Veronica, who does not thrive on overstimulation. This week with us was… a week with us on our extended tour, and also a vacation for her from summertime work in New York. Fortunately, being separated by an ocean is not nearly as distant as it was even a decade ago. We are in daily text, email, and voice contact with Veronica – on a par with how much we are when we are all in New York, so whatever cliché or piece of wisdom used to be able to be trotted out about the effects of distance on relationships, they are radically undermined by the digital revolution.
We continued from Schiphol to The Hague to see the center of the city
and two museums, the Maurits House, containing in its sumptuous galleries great Rembrandts,
and, of particular literary importance though visual disappointment to Gideon, The Goldfinch;
and the Gemeentemuseum, a stunning (in my experience) singular building designed by Hendrik Berlage in the early 1930s, which houses the world’s largest collection of Mondrians to architecture and art’s mutual enhancement. The museum, which I (perhaps understandably) had remembered as being a Mondrian museum (it’s not), offered us the largest display of his works and treatment of his life and influences it has ever put on. It’s the largest because it’s everything the museum has, its “entire 300-strong collection.” Mondrian’s signature style is, of course, on display, as are his earlier abstract pieces of more color and non-rightangled-linearity, many of which are as captivating and artistically (though not art-historically) worthy as all his boogie-woogies and their sparer ilk. Most interesting for Sarah and me was the clear progression that can be discerned – it’s pretty obvious – on how Piet Mondrian became Mondrian or, put differently, how he, through experimentation and evolution, developed his mature style. This developmental theme, as with so much of the visual and constructive arts, I clued into thanks to Sarah, who investigated it as a central problematic in her great book Louis Kahn’s Situated Modernism. (Modest Sarah might like to stop me from writing the plain truth about this GREAT book, but as we have, easily and naturally, agreed that each of us should have a free – always respectful – hand in our respective entries, I incontestably respectfully will insist on having my say.) Creativity is an endlessly fascinating theme. That is recognized. The development of creativity, a creative dimension in its own right, is of equal interest even though it appears to be a tertiary theme. This is one of those more later moments.
The Hague was a nice on-the-road-to-Ghent follow-up to Amsterdam,
both in providing a quick comparative insight into Dutch urbanism and some critical leverage on what we had come to so relish about Amsterdam, and in its Flemish art and architecture, in which graceful old is repeatedly complemented by well-designed new, as we witnessed again with the underground contemporary entrance to the otherwise undisturbed original villa of the Maurits House museum. On the way out of The Hague, we stopped in its outskirts at a dedicated gluten-free bakery, owing its situatedness to a Welsh baker with Celiac having married a Dutchman. We recommend the Welshstone Bakery as one of the two best such bakeries (By the Way in New York is the other) we have yet found.
Amsterdam for espresso, The Hague for gluten-free bread and pastries. What delicacies are next?
— Danny, a few days ago in Ghent, 10 August 2017