From Russia with love

Denise Mosbach, Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Of course, I have to start at the Hermitage in Amsterdam. If anything stands testament to the Russian influence, it’s this smaller version of one of the most famous museums in the world. The original Hermitage is the former Winter Palace of Tsar Peter the Great. He was the first Tsar to travel beyond the borders of his empire and, while doing so, he bought art. Lots of it. His ‘hobby’ got out of hand somewhat and his lovely wife joined in with abandon. The result? An art collection so large that only a fraction of it can be displayed in St. Petersburg. Because of this, parts of the collection were housed in smaller Hermitages, like that in Amsterdam.

I love visiting the Hermitage, and not just for the exhibitions. It’s a magnificent building, with a delightful blend of history and modern design. It’s never too busy there either, as there’s always enough space around you to admire the works of art. There’s also a wonderful restaurant on the first floor. In summer, it’s nice to just sit in the garden with a nice latte macchiato. At the moment, there is an exhibition about Peter the Great.

But Russia has also produced famous artists itself such as Wassily Kandinsky, who is considered a pioneer of modern art and the father of abstract painting. Kandinsky was a master in using form and colour, and was a pur sang expressionist. I simply love his work. The man had a reputation on the Dutch art scene too. Not only did Kandinsky visit our country, he also inspired numerous Dutch artists. A must-visit in my opinion is an intriguing exhibition about the Russian artist in the famous Boijmans Van Beuningen museum in Rotterdam, which paints a picture of Kandinsky's fascinating relationship with the Netherlands.

And of course there is the influence of the Russian Ballet and the role of famous composers such as Stravinsky, Prokofiev and Shostakovich. For a fabulous Dutch "translation" of these three, you should really visit Het Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. The venue is world-renowned for its acoustics; the sound is brilliant there, wherever you are seated. But if it's a Russian evening that you fancy, you could go to the presentation of the chief conductor of Het Concertgebouw, Mariss Jansons, for example, or of 'Stravinsky and his influences’ – a number of pieces by Dutch composers strongly influenced by the Russian composer. Visit Het Concertgebouw yourself for other (Russian) concerts...there’s always a wonderful performance on.

Hermitage Amsterdam, Amstel 51
Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Museumpark 18-20, Rotterdam
Het Concertgebouw, Concertgebouwplein 10, Amsterdam