Goede middag van Eindhoven,
Linda is fulfilling a lifelong ambition by visiting The Netherlands this week. The neat and picturesque countryside is keeping her smiling broadly and over-using that favourite adjective of hers (“lovely”). We have been bicycling breezily from one quaint village to another enjoying the art history here in the south of The Netherlands.
Van Gogh Village
This morning we visited Neunen, which proclaims itself as Van Gogh Village. It was here that Vincent’s father was the local vicar. Still extant here is the water wheel, a quaint church (now known as Van Gogh Church) and the famous windmill, all of which Van Gogh painted into posterity. There’s a statue of Vincent in the main central park and also a great bronze statue of the pathetic family known as The Potato Eaters. This sculpture is a recent artwork, portraying the subjects of Van Gogh’s painting by that name.
triptychs of Heaven and Hell
Yesterday, we paid a visit to an exhibition of the controversial Jheronimus Bosch. It’s a bit hard to work out exactly what Bosch was on about, a few centuries before Van Gogh. He painted triptychs of Heaven and Hell with vivid imagery and colourful caricatures of human figures. One school of thought says he was mocking the Catholic Church about their absolutist views on sin and redemption. Some say he was a devout Catholic trying to instill fear into his fellows.
Bosch’s artwork certainly incites a reaction, one way or another. Perhaps the reaction is dictated by one’s preconceived beliefs. Perhaps he was being mischievous and wanted us to see the folly of the Christian faith whilst maintaining his status in his home town. As the Americans say, the jury is still out.
The Netherlands is famously a secular state where a high proportion of the people are agnostic or atheist. Linda’s father (born in Amsterdam) used to talk of “that God nonsense” when the topic arose. Bosch’s home town of ‘s Hertogenbosche (the apostrophe denotes historical custodianship by a member of the aristocracy) shows more signs of faith than other parts of the country. The cathedral is very big and very ornate. Antonette says, “this is a very Catholic town”. Perhaps Jheronimus’s artistic efforts keeps them believing.
These two towns are pictures of Dutch neatness and rural prosperity. In the past they begot some influential artists. Today they celebrate the facts in a typical Dutch low-key manner, allowing the visitors to decide how important they are, what they mean and whether they are in fact worth visiting at all. Linda certainly thinks it’s worthwhile visiting and is still smiling and loving every second.
Tot ziens van Eindhoven