Wednesday, July 16, 2014

On the Streets of Haarlem:

On the streets of Haarlem: a city whose location so near to both Amsterdam and the Atlantic Ocean, is so seminal to its rich history. Composed of hues that recall all shades of brick–tans, auburns, maroons, and browns–so much of the city's architectural ornament is accented with dashes of patinated copper or gilded trim. In existence since mediaeval times, the city has nearly always played a prominent role within North Holland and its history. Its center square is occupied by the enormous and aptly titled Grote Kerk (or, ‘The Big Church’, in English)–which has even been painted by Gerrit Berckheyde. And, the mediaeval quarters situated amongst the church's shadows often reveal the techniques of their construction, via their exposed bricks walls, most of which line tiny alleyways–or steegjes–with others abutting neighboring buildings. Haarlem found its footing during the Renaissance slightly before Amsterdam did, and so its stock of buildings from the 1500s and the early 1600s show more similarities with Netherlandish architecture, than that of, say, Amsterdam’s architecture. Specifically, the fluidity of Haarlem’s building's from this time trace their influences back to the flamboyant and bravant structures that were then being designed and constructed in the Southern Netherlands, in cities such as Antwerp. And so Haarlem is, in some ways–and in many others not–very different than Amsterdam. For a city its size (population about 155,000 people), its contributions to the history of Dutch art cannot be underestimated, so pivotal it was, as a hinge between the Catholic Southern- and the Protestant Northern-Netherlands. Not to mention Frans Hals; with his lucidly treated brush strokes, which since have been so readily absorbed by other painters in style. All that is very nice. But my favorite part of Haarlem, I must admit, is its close proximity, to the beach.