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September 2006


ON THE ROAD

Dutch Style
By Samuel T. Clover

CONTEMPORARY DUTCH LIGHTING DESIGN DELIVERS OLD-WORLD GLOW

There's something about the light in the Netherlands—that cool, flat light that falls like gauze on the bobbing tulips, brick townhouses and choppy black water of the Amsterdam canals. You can see it in the paintings of the great 17th-century Dutch artists: Frans Hals, Johannes Vermeer and, especially, Rembrandt van Rijn, who would be celebrating his 400th birthday this year.

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Holland has been marking the occasion with a yearlong series of art exhibitions and programming, most of which takes place in Amsterdam. (For details, visit www.rembrandt400.com.) At the Rembrandt House Museum, where the artist lived and worked for 19 years, you can climb a narrow staircase to view his second-floor studio—which faces north, the preferred exposure for artists—and also see the small bed where his wife, Saskia, died at age 29. There are drawings and paintings, too—including, just outside the ground-floor kitchen, a self-portrait that seems to glow in the dim light.

A few canals away, at the Royal Carré Theatre, the aurally inclined can sample Rembrandt, The Musical. But no Rembrandt pilgrimage would be complete without a visit to the Rijksmuseum, which, while undergoing extensive renovations, still displays what is arguably Rembrandt's most famous painting, The Night Watch (1642), on the second floor. The shadowy military scene, in which splashes of light fall across a captain and his lieutenant in the foreground and a crouching woman in the background, has exerted a strange power over some viewers: Over the last century, it has been slashed twice and once splashed with acid.

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