Real winters at the Teylers Museum Haarlem

One of the most interesting exhibitions on show right now, can be found at the Teylers Museum in Haarlem. Unlike some temporary exhibitions on show elsewhere, this one will not disappoint. It focuses on romantic Dutch winter landscape paintings.

Though the focus is on winter landscapes painted during the 19th century, there is more. One room shows examples of earlier paintings by for instance Brueghel, which inspired artists of the Romantic Era. This enables visitors to see influences as well as differences and links this exhibition to the “Bosch to Brueghel” exhibition at Museum Boijmans in Rotterdam, as well as the “Brueghel’s Witches” exhibition at Utrecht’s Catharijneconvent.

Another room contains diaries and photos of various Pole Expeditions. Visitors  with the harsh realities of the early expeditions. One sees photos of men doomed not to survive an arctic winter. The room includes items recovered from heroic efforts and fatal expeditions, including Shackleton’s, Amundsen’s and Scott‘s

Most of the paintings are less horrifying. The landscapes, snow, ice, cold are painted through a romantic lens. There are beautiful sunsets, a few lonely skaters and ice so realistically painted one can nearly feel it vibrate or hear it crackle, as skaters pass. However, there are also drawings and paintings of early steamships and wooden sailing vessels which have to be cut free from the ice by hundreds of people.

The exhibition includes short videos depicting Dutch winters of the early 20th century. Villagers enjoy fun on the ice, one falls through and is saved, there are skating contests and a whole fair. These are early, black-and-white television news clips.

On the wall opposite them, there are photos. The difference between a photo of a Canadian glacier from over a century ago and one taken earlier this year is shocking. These photos and the accompanying statistics illustrate climate change. The differences between the same spots, photographed a century later certainly bring home the truth of climate change.

Yet despite these shocking photos and the impressive room on arctic expeditions, this exhibition is full of beautiful winter landscapes. There is only one drawback: one leaves the exhibition feeling cold. Fortunately, the museum café has various remedies to combat this effect. The drinks, soups, sandwiches on offer are based on traditional Dutch winter fare and will warm you after the wintry landscapes.

The museum has much more on offer. There is the permanent collection of paintings. If you visit these rooms, do not forget to have a look at the collection of drawings kept in several large cupboards. Ask staff to help you select a map from one of the many drawers and put it on one of the tables to admire the samples it contains.

As theTeylers museum started as a natural history and science one, the rooms leading to the temporary and permanent exhibitions are full of fossils, minerals, scientific instruments. These ensures a visit will not only delight those interested art, but also those interested in science. Occasionally, the period rooms above the museum can be visited with a guide as well.

The museum has a small café as well as a well-stocked museum shop and is situated in the historic centre of Haarlem. The exhibition “Real Winters” can be visited till the beginning of March 2016. For more information, visit the Teylers Museum’s website.


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