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Vermeer’s A Little Street hits me again

Day 2 in Amsterdam – lucky again. It was pouring when I woke up and dry when I went out; the sun even emerged, briefly, later. After a long breakfast with Pam and much more talk, I set off for the Rijksmuseum. Pam’s street took me almost right there, a 40 minute walk.

What a place! Massive and jammed, with it seemed almost every schoolchild in Holland on the floor, listening to a teacher tell them about their artistic heritage. Inspiring. I headed straight for Vermeer. Last time I was here, in 1979, the museum was sparsely occupied; I saw the two other Vermeers first, and then happened on “A Little Street” which overpowered me, the meticulous detail, the affection with which the artist depicted those tiny humans, preoccupied with their lives. The brick, the clouds, the unfinished whitewash – everything spoke to me, and I wept, and fell, for the first time, in love with a specific artist, and art.

Today, rounding a corner into the Vermeer room, “A Little Street” was the first canvas I saw and again, started to cry. Not just because of its beauty, but because I was 28 when I first saw it, and now I’m 73. Still the same and yet so different.

Stood there weeping, and then moved on to the other Vermeers, and then to the Rembrandts, and then to the special Frans Hals exhibition, which was an eye-opener. I didn’t know he was revolutionary for his use of loose brush strokes – the opposite of Vermeer – and for depicting street people and laughing people – only the poor laughed for painters in those days. I didn’t know Van Gogh thought of Hals as his precursor. But standing in front of one canvas, I thought, this could have been painted by Van Gogh, only in 1640.

Sat, had a muffin and some water to revive me, went to the Renaissance section where there’s a lovely Fra Angelico, but finally, after 2 1/2 hours, my legs were wood and I left. Instead of exploring the town, I went to sit in nearly Vondelpark and watched ducks and a big crane. Heaven.

Meandered home, where … what are the chances? … I happened upon a shoe-store for the big-footed woman, one of the few in Europe. Size 42 up to 45, the giant 45s, oh Mum, my size 45-wearing mother, how I wish you were here to see this. I bought a pair of 43’s, slipper shoes, very light, just what’s needed here, for example, where people leave their shoes outside the door.

Pam made dinner. In this brief period, I think we know just about everything about each other now. Perhaps one of the reasons I’m so near tears here is because of the miracle of this new friendship that sprang from my father. She feels I’m like him in many ways, and so, just as he and she were close friends, she and I, who’ve met only twice, are now close friends.

I know for sure I have to come back, visit again, and next time, rent a bike and ride it.

Pictured: the Little Street, though of course you can’t see how exquisite it is

The scene in front of Rembrandt’s famous “The Night Watch”

Schoolchildren learning about Rembrandt

Frans Hals “Malle Babbe” in 1640, could have been painted by Van Gogh, no?

Vondelpark’s floating tulip boats

An Amsterdam parking lot

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3 Responses to “Vermeer’s A Little Street hits me again”

  1. Theresa says:

    This is a lovely post. The Vermeer is exquisite. I remember the first time I was in Amsterdam and we went to Rembrandt’s studio. I’d particularly liked the etchings. My friend’s husband, an artist, suggested she take us out along the Amstel River on bikes (my first time in decades on a bike; but it’s true, you never forget how to ride one…) to see that there are views unchanged since Rembrandt saw them and made sketches and etchings. Swans, low willows, a farm.

  2. Beth Kaplan says:

    The weather was too iffy and my visit too short for a bike ride, but that would be my goal for the next visit. How wonderful, Rembrandt’s studio.

  3. Beth Kaplan says:

    Theresa, the weather was too iffy for a bike ride. Next time. How wonderful, Rembrandt’s studio.

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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