We spend our first day in Amsterdam visiting museums--Rembrandt House, Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh, and De Appel. The sea and skyscapes of the Dutch Golden Age in the Rijksmuseum collection are wonderful to see in person, especially our discovery of Willem van de Velde's monochromatic pen paintings and the glinting, refracting light in the still lifes of Willem Claesz Heda. Imagining the shadow fall of evening in the deep and narrow, tall stacked rooms of Rembrandt House, where the artist lived and worked, heightens understanding of the interplay of light and dark in his painting and etching. We see the top-floor painting studio, bathed in beautiful north light, his curio room full of sundry plaster models, sea shells, old coins, pelts, and stuffed animals, and a recreation of Rembrandt's printing studio, where etchings pinned to a line hang like laundry out to dry.
We arrive in Otterlo via train and bus. Conservator Lydia Beerkens, who restored Pan's "Sculpture flottante" in 2006, kindly collects us at our b&b, where we are waylaid in pelting rain. We drive through the vast state park to the Kröller-Müller Museum. After a brief tour of the Museum's conservation labs, we head outside to see the sculpture in person.
The decorative pond is smaller than I'd anticipated. It takes a moment to adjust to this unexpected shift in scale. The rains (briefly) subside. In the saturated light of a brooding gunmetal sky, the bank and surrounding lawn are vivid electric green. The pond is mirror still, and the "Sculpture flottante" appears one with its reflection.
I am reminded of a studio conversation with MIT Brain and Cognitive Science postdoc Kimo Johnson back at the Center, in which Kimo explained that in computer optics, a computer can't tell the difference between an original and its mirror reflection. This prompted a sustained discussion on the fugitive nature of the copy in the age of digital reproduction, whereby the copy doesn't necessarily mean a duplicate.
Tracing the sinuous lines of the "Sculpture flottante" with my eyes, I follow the seamless flow of volumes and hollows from solid air to watery reflection. Image/illusion and material form are mutually whole, dynamically rapt. A breeze sways the hood of the sculpture left, and solid form radially dials away from reflected self, mirror image reading simultaneously as widening embrace and opening breach. Achingly slow separation and fanning reach.
Rain returns, halting at first, then falling steadily. Beads of water edge the sculpture's hood, raindrops kaleidoscope reflection.
We retreat to comfortable chairs in the Museum lobby, with "Sculpture flottante" in view. Lydia walks us through the careful conservation process of restoring the floating sculpture in 2006. We learn that Marta Pan also created a companion to the sculpture in wood, designed to rest on the floor of the Museum gallery. Lydia recounts Pan's arrival at the Kröller-Müller to advise on the restoration process. She describes Pan running her hands along the sides of the sculpture, asking, "Where is my line?," as she searched for the crisp edge that marked the rim of the base, now softened by coats of paint accumulated during the sculpture's nearly half-century life.
July 16. Many Dutch trains later, we arrive in a small town outside Eindhoven, HQ for Crealev. We have a productive meeting with Rob and Ger Jansen.
Next stop Amsterdam, Copenhagen-bound, en route to Malmö, to Lund and the Skissernas Museum.