Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Speaking of Scheveningen

Since I brought up Scheveningen in my earlier post, here's a travel-tip for anyone who might visit The Hague: last summer, in a daytrip to the city, I visited the Panorama Mesdag between visits to the Mauritshuis (where lives the girl with the pearl earring) and the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag (the city's modern art museum). The Panorama Mesdag is one of about thirty 19th-century 360-degree cylindrical paintings surviving today (another of the 30 is in my growing-up-town, Atlanta=the Cyclorama), this one done in 1881 by the Hague School artist, Hendrik Willem Mesdag. The painting had just been completed when Vincent moved to The Hague, and he admired it so much he mentioned it in a letter to Theo. Restored not long ago to its former glory, the Panorama Mesdag is a treat for the eyes: the subject is the fishing-village of Scheveningen as it looked in 1881, and the perspective is such that you'd swear you could walk right into the painting. The panorama is housed in a cylindrical room: you climb some stairs into it, and it's as if you're under a wooden beach-shelter, looking around you at the village and the sea. To add to the realism, the floor in front of the painting is covered with sand, etc. and the painting itself is slightly tilted. You can spot the Panorama Mesdag in Robert Altman's film "Vincent and Theo"; Altman filmed a scene with Vincent, Sien Hoornik, and Sien's daughter there.

Vincent's early style, as seen in "View of the Sea at Scheveningen," was very influenced by Mesdag and the other artists of the Hague School. While in The Hague, you can see examples of Hague School paintings at the Museum Mesdag (operated by the Van Gogh Museum, unfortunately I did not make it here) and also at the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag. The Gemeentemuseum also has a few van Goghs, but don't count on them being on display. I searched for them all over the building and was so disappointed not to find them (including my very favorite of the selfportraits) that I had to console myself with gooey chocolate cake at the Gemeentemuseum's excellent cafe.

No comments: