20 January 2007

In the Christmas holiday, when we all celebrated the arbitrarily chosen birth date of Jesus Christ our supreme saviour when the day of reckoning comes, my dad and I visited a few museums in Germany. One exhibited the modern art of the Italian Penone, who was apparently quite cuckoo over trees. He had all sorts of tree-inspired works. That man loved trees.

But the real treat was the second museum we visited: the old stately mansion of the Dutch master J.C. Koekkoek. Not related to the above-mentioned JC, by the way. Now Koekkoek was from a line of Dutch painters from the 19th century who are kind of neglected in our collective memory. We all know Rembrandt and Vermeer of course, and all sorts of other folks that were so very keen on painting huge skies and sprawling frozen rivers. But Koekkoek is somewhat of an obscurity. I had never heard of him anyway.

So it was with great pleasure that I discovered that the man was absolutely brilliant at oil painting. The level of detail he put into his work, combined with that sharper-than-life quality that oil paint is able to bring, was jaw-dropping on more than one occasion. Concerning theme and subject, there was nothing out of the ordinary about his work: it was all Rhine landscapes, trees, castles and dainty little folk pulling cartwheels. Nothing we haven't seen before. But it was just all so excellently composed, so majestically large and astoundingly sharp, that it completely swept me away. If I dare make a bold statement, they were among the most beautiful paintings I have ever seen. Again, on an intellectual level they may not be terribly mind-blowing, but their awesome visual beauty and composition were second to none. Wonderful.

And the mansion itself was nice too. Go check it out; it's the Koekkoek house in Kleve, just across the German border from the Netherlands.