I have just made my first visit to Amsterdam – organised by my friend Ann. It was a perfect three day trip and as well as the usual sights (the newly re-furbished Rijksmuseum and a canal boat trip) – textiles and fashion took centre stage.
The Stedelijk Museum was a favourite, modern and contemporary art and design are its focus and I concentrated on the design galleries – a reminder of years of teaching early twentieth century design history.
The design displays included a scattering of textiles. With samples by Lisbeth Oestreicher who was a student at the Bauhaus in the 1920s and settled in Amsterdam in the 1930s.
The work of American artist Sheila Hicks is well represented in the Stedlijk’s collection with a number on permanent display.
As a fan of mid-century modern fabric the Hart Prints on display particularly impressed and they must have the most stylish printed selvedge in the history of textiles. The two designs shown here are by Johan von Loon ‘Ariola’ 1957-8 in several colourways, and ‘Forto’ by Frans Dijkmeijer (1957) all printed by Hermann Hart & Co. The post-war textile industry in the Netherlands flourished and Hermann Hart sponsored a number of competitions for students.
‘Living in the Amsterdam School: Designs for the Interior 1910-1930’ is a temporary exhibition open until 28 August 2016. The show provided a first-time visitor to Amsterdam with a fantastic introduction to the city – with its concentration on designers whose work can be seen all over Amsterdam – designers like Michel de Klerk, Hildo Krop and Piet Kramer.
Each day we travelled into the city via tram passing wonderful brick-built apartment buildings that showed the designers’ commitment to creative and elegant solutions for inter-war social housing.
The exhibition design is very bold – with the walls of each gallery boldly patterned with blown up images of wallpaper patterns and photographs of interiors, that provided atmosphere without detracting from the objects on display.
The Amsterdam Museum provided an excellent introduction to the history of the city (we should have started here!). Equipped with a free audio guide – by the end of the visit we were Amsterdam experts and had a better understanding of the reasons why the city became an important commercial and trading centre.
My favourite kind of museum. There are several in Amsterdam and they each give a flavour of what it may have been like to inhabit the city. The Museum Ons’ Lieve Herr op Solder (Our Lord in the Attic) dates from 1663 and houses a catholic church on the upper two floors. Textile exhibits included bedding displayed on the short closet beds which could also be seen at Rembrandt’s house. This residence is particularly interesting as when Rembrandt fell on hard times in the mid 1650s an inventory was made of the contents of his home before everything was sold.
The Museum von Loon can be found on the Keizersgacht canal. The building was constructed in 1672 and was home to the wealthy von Loon family from 1884 and its descendants still live there. The draw to this museum was the display of fashion – portraits, photographs, clothing and accessories – relating to the fashionable von Loon family. Items range in date from 1850s through to the 1970s and are on display throughout the house.
Time was too short – I am sure there are lots of textiles I didn’t see. Too little time at the Rijksmuseum meant we barely scratched the surface – but their was an interesting exhibition of the Dutch painter Breitner’s – almost obsessive interest in painting one particular model in a range of kimono (Breitner: Girl in Kimono).
The tulips were just about over – but this won’t be my last visit to Amsterdam – next time the tulips will take centre stage!