Amsterdam: Anne Frank House

It’d be easy to walk right by the Anne Frank House and not realize what it is, except for the line snaking out the entrance (which you can’t see in this photo, but it’s there! It’s off to the right, entering the building next door that has since become part of the museum).

anne frank house prinsengracht

Looking up at Otto Frank’s former Opekta offices
from a canal boat on Prinsengracht. The hiding place
(Het Achterhuis, or Secret Annex) is in the back.

anne frank house entrance entryway door 263 prinsengracht

Anne Frank and her family once walked through these doors.

Anne Frank Huis sign

On the advice of a couple of friends, I showed up at the house an hour or so before closing time, when they said you’re more likely to walk right in even without a reservation and have the place relatively to yourself (meaning you can linger over what interests you and double back if you like, without feeling you’re in anyone’s way). And it’s true. Even making a res online ahead of time and skipping the ticket line outside doesn’t mitigate the crowdedness once you’re inside—unless you go in the evening, when everybody else is out having dinner. This strategy worked so well, in fact, that I visited the museum twice; once on the last Saturday night of August, when the house was open until 10 p.m., and once again the night before I left, when it closed at 9.

You’re not allowed to take photographs inside, but The Secret Annex Online takes you through a 360° tour of some of the rooms in the hiding place, include Anne’s bedroom along with the attic (which is off-limits to visitors). Some of the smallest things about the annex were the most moving: the pencil marks showing how much taller Anne and her sister, Margot, grew while in hiding (Margot grew about 2 inches, while Anne shot up about 5!); or the very postcards and magazine cutouts that Anne plastered on the walls of her room, typical teenager-style.

Amsterdam: Van Gogh Museum

The one souvenir I’d wanted to bring home from Amsterdam was a copy of Barbara Stok’s graphic novel Vincent in English, from the Van Gogh Museum bookshop. When I got there the Friday night I arrived, though, it was completely sold out—and the soonest it’d be back in stock was the day after I left! Blarg. Only after I returned to the States did I realize it was still available at the American Book Center on Spui, which I’d chanced by earlier the same afternoon that I visited the museum but hadn’t thought to check before I departed the city six days later.

barbara stok graphic novel vincent

The book appeals to my nascent love of graphic novels
as well as my longstanding love of introspection.

So that evening at the museum, I consoled myself with buying greeting cards taken from panels in the book, to send to friends as airmail souvenirs. (Don’t you love the idea of carefully sticking a foreign stamp on a letter, popping it into a mailbox, and imagining its journey in planes through the air and in trucks over roads to its destination back home? Way more tactile than texting photos, as immediate as that is.)

van gogh bedroom barbara stok graphic novel

Van Gogh’s bedroom, as interpreted by Barbara Stok.

van gogh bedroom

In the meantime, I felt chills being in the same room as paintings like this! The Bedroom (1888) by Van Gogh was supposed to have inspired Egon Schiele’s similar painting The Artist’s Room in Neulengbach (1911) too, though I hadn’t covered the latter in my master’s thesis.

I arrived on a Friday, which meant the museum was open until 10 p.m. So I decided to make the artist’s acquaintance (at this point I was still running on an espresso doppio to power through the jet lag).

van gogh self portrait as painter

Vincent Van Gogh, Self-Portrait as a Painter, 1888

Visitors were fairly free to get up close and pore over the paintings as they liked, along with snapping photographs on their smartphones—particularly of the well-known works. Isn’t it incredible to peer at the very daubs of paint that Van Gogh himself had applied to the canvas? Stroke by stroke, until the now-familiar image emerged.

van gogh irises

Vincent Van Gogh, Irises (detail), 1890

van gogh wheatfield with crows

Vincent Van Gogh, Wheatfield with Crows (detail), 1890

To see how Van Gogh applied color theory was pretty fascinating. That is, when placed side by side in a painting, colors opposite each other on the color wheel—red opposite green, yellow opposite purple, and blue opposite orange—heighten an image’s overall intensity.

van gogh color theory boats

Vincent Van Gogh, Fishing Boats on the Beach
at Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer (detail), 1888

van gogh garden saint paul's hospital

Vincent Van Gogh, The Garden of Saint Paul’s Hospital
(‘The Fall of the Leaves’)
, 1889. I love how the saturated blue of the wall
picks up the blues off center in the painting.

(Barbara Stok’s Vincent panels via the Van Gogh Museum’s Google+ and Pinterest)

I enjoy museums as places to read, absorb, and pique my curiosity as well as stoke my love of learning. (They appeal to the introvert in me.) My favorite Bay Area museum may actually be the San Jose Museum of Art … it’s small, but well curated, fun, informative, and down-to-earth in its presentation. Plus its exhibitions program draws big names (Calder, Mapplethorpe, and now Leibovitz coming up).


Far from the stuffy, sterile elitism that the word “museum” traditionally evokes, San Francisco is home to some of the most vibrant, interactive and – dare we say? – fun museums around. For decades, SF’s museums have focused on accessible engagement with art, science, discovery and history. The recent closing of the Museum of Craft and Folk Art inspired us here at Flavorpill SF to look hard at the treasure trove of cultural life our museums offer every day. As with all accessible art and culture, museum exhibits and programming are possible only through patronage. Of course, we encourage you (and remind ourselves) to integrate a habit of visiting our local museums regularly, just to surround yourself with art or to sit and breathe – but sometimes it’s helpful to have a particular reason to go, too.

So here are seven reasons to visit our museums and pay a little…

View original post 868 more words


First thought: Wasn’t Rembrandt’s Storm on the Sea of Galilee one of the paintings stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in a theft attributed to Myles J. Connor Jr.? (I read The Art of the Heist not too long ago, and remember it being described as one of the few landscape-type paintings that Rembrandt did.)
My second thought, though, is that I actually love to step inside art museums for the same reason I like to go hiking on my own or browse in a bookstore or library with no other particular where to be. It lets me learn, takes me to a world outside of my own, and gives me space to ponder (which, with me being an introvert, are all things I love). In fact, I myself am looking forward to checking out the Rembrandt’s Century exhibition at the de Young Museum in San Francisco…after the crowds there for Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring subside somewhat.

Ordinary Time

Two weekends ago, two of my girlfriends and I visited the newest exhibit at the Frist Center for Visual Arts: Rembrandt and the Dutch Golden Age.  It was interesting to see the influence of Protestantism on art after the Netherlands broke from Catholic Spain, and while still life isn’t my favorite, there were lots of other pieces I really enjoyed.

The first pieces were Rembrandts, and they were my favorite.  I especially liked his Visitation, which I had never seen before.


It also included one of his portraits of Christ (of which there are many).  Not his most famous one, but a very nice one.


Two of my favorite Rembrandts that weren’t in the exhibit were his Storm on the Lake of Galilee and his Return of the Prodigal Son.

The way the Frist is laid out, it’s easy to find yourself in a completely different exhibit while in the…

View original post 349 more words

Bernini’s Apollo and Daphne

I still count Canova’s Cupid et Psyche in the Louvre as my all-time favorite sculpture, but Bernini’s Apollo and Daphne sculpture in the Galleria Borghese cuts a close second (if not a tie). The way the light filters down so that the marble glows, and how you can walk around the elevated sculpture to peer at it from different angles, is so amazing.

(video via Rick Steves; FF to about 2:20 to see the sculpture)

Lands End day trip

The weather’s supposed to clear up this Sunday after several off-and-on days of much-needed rain, so I’m hoping to take the opportunity to bolt to San Francisco for a little day trip around the Outer Sunset / Lands End / the Legion of Honor.

My plan is to check out Outerlands for the amazing-looking Dutch pancake (just look at that thing) plus possibly the eggs in jail (purely for the name). Although the fried egg open-face sandwich with roasted chicories and goat cheese sounds intriguing too…as do the poached eggs with braised greens and yellow corn grits. Accompanied by hot lemon-ginger apple cider with Buffalo Trace bourbon in a mason jar? Yes, please.

Ever since Weekend Sherpa ran this blurb on the 6-mile Grand Walk that skirts Lands End and Baker Beach before continuing to Fort Mason, I’ve wanted to traverse the trail myself. At least a small part of it. Judging from this Google map, I could easily head up the Great Highway from Outerlands and park at the Lands End lot behind the 1863 Cliff House, jump on the Coastal Trail—sidetracking briefly for a look-see of the labyrinth—and then follow to where the trail cuts up through Lincoln Park to the Legion of Honor. If the trails aren’t too soggy, that is.

Side note: Do you remember the book West from Home: Letters of Laura Ingalls Wilder, San Francisco, 1915? It’s a collection of Laura’s letters home to her husband, Almanzo, on their Rocky Ridge Farm in Missouri about visiting their daughter, Rose, during S.F.’s Panama Pacific International Exposition. Laura writes of the delight of dipping her toes in the Pacific Ocean for the first time, somewhere along Baker Beach, and the image always stuck with me because, well, when I think of Laura, I think of the prairie. It’d be so neat to stand on the beach and imagine her there as the waves caress the sand, evoking the same wonder she must’ve felt.

Anyhow, it’ll feel good to be outdoors in the sun after the rain has washed the air clean this past week. And how cool will it be to combine some hiking and books with a little art fix?

John Spencer Stanhope, Love and the Maiden, 1877.
The figures in the background remind me of Botticelli’s Primavera.

The Legion’s exhibition The Cult of Beauty: The Victorian Avant-Garde, 1860–1900 is up, with its focus on the British Aesthetic Movement, and I’m curious to see paintings like this Stanhope mainly as a foil to the fin de siècle Austrian Expressionism I’ve been so immersed in with my MLA thesis on Egon Schiele. In fact, the whole trip will be a nice break from thesis writing and colloquium.

I love planning little adventures like this—and having the time for them again, as well as the head space not to stress out about taking time away from doing what I need to graduate.

(Outerlands montage photo via Foodiggity via Eat Drink Chic; Grand Walk photo via Weekend Sherpa; Love and the Maiden via the Legion of Honor)

Update: On second thought, I may have to swing by Devil’s Teeth Baking Company for a cuppa and some hot beignets first, and save Outerlands for a midafternoonish brunch!