The Genteel Beauty of Lievendaal

Lievendaal
There’s a charming villa on the eastern edge of town near Lepelenburg Park. It’s called Lievendaal and was built in 1862. I’ve been meaning to write about it for ages, or at least, I’ve been meaning to do the research on the building, since I’ve been taking photos of it for years. This first photo was taken in 2011, but it was a set of photos I took a couple of weeks ago that finally reminded me to look up the details on the building.

Lievendaal Magnolia
One of the reasons I’ve always noticed the villa is because of the gorgeous magnolia tree out front, which was in beautiful bloom at the beginning of May. Along with the circular porch and some of the other trees in and around the property, it often reminds me of the southern part of the US I know so well.

Lievendaal
The house is located on a slight hill that was part of the remnants of the old city walls. It’s located between Lepelenburg Park and Zocher Park. The Lepelenburg Park stands where a stronghold of the same name once stood. There were various of these strongholds around the city.

Someone named G. Reede (I need to search to find out more about this person) is the one who commissioned the building in 1862. It was built in the Eclectic style, and though I can’t find a specific architect, it does seem that Jan David Zocher, who designed the extensive Zocher Park, played some role in the villa’s design.

Although I don’t know anything about Reede, I do know a bit about a later resident of Lievendaal. From 1958-1962, Irene van Lippe-Biesterfeld lived there while she was attending Utrecht University. Certainly much fancier than any of the places I lived during my university days! Of course, housing like that is probably fairly standard when your mother is the queen. Irene was the second daughter of Queen Juliana and the younger sister of Beatrix, who recently abdicated the throne for her son. It’s worth reading the Wiki page about her for some of the story on how she came to give up all rights to succession.

I don’t know who owns the villa now, but it remains a beautiful part of the landscape for which it was designed. There were some renovations and additions in the early 1900s, but they seem to have been tastefully done. Best of all, as I mentioned, is the wonderful magnolia tree. During its recent bloom, with the beautiful blue sky behind it, it reminded me of one of my favourite Van Gogh paintings, the almond blossom series.

Lievendaal Magnolia

Rietveld and Van Gogh

Rietveld Does Van Gogh

A few weeks ago, while visiting Amsterdam with a friend, I finally visited the Van Gogh Museum. As we were standing in line to check our coats and bags, I couldn’t help but notice a couple of my favorite Rietveld chairs on display (up high) in the gift shop.

Rietveld en Van Gogh

I was curious as to why they were on display, but soon got distracted by the actual museum exhibits. There really is something thrilling to see the impasto of Van Gogh’s work. To see the swirls of paint colors and their dimensionality really does add a whole new level of connection to the paintings.

Still, after our trip through the museum, we couldn’t resist heading back to the gift shop to see what was on offer and I took the opportunity to look a bit more closely at the Rietveld chairs. I could just read the small sign next to the chairs that explained that Gerrit Rietveld (my beloved Utrecht architect and designer) was the designer for the main building of the Van Gogh Museum! I’ve been slowly checking off the various Rietveld-designed buildings here in Utrecht, but haven’t looked into many of his buildings outside the Utrecht region, thus my surprise. Also a good reminder that I need to look further into his other buildings throughout the country.

The Van Gogh Museum was Rietveld’s last commission, and in the end, he was only able to come up with the design before his death in 1964. His partners, Van Dillen and Van Tricht, carried out his plans, and the museum was opened in 1973. One of the main features of the building is the large central staircase that leads visitors through the multiple levels. It includes a skylight at the top that allows natural light to shine through. Or lets the grey light filter in, as it did on the overcast day we were there. Regardless, it’s an attractive, geometric, and nicely proportioned staircase.

The Rietveld chairs weren’t the only surprise at the museum gift shop. There was also one item that elicited a number of comments, most from people a bit horrified, finding the item tacky or in poor taste. I don’t know what it says about me, but I thought it was wonderfully irreverent and appreciated the sense of humor that the museum staff displays in stocking the item. See for yourself:
Twisted Fun

Yes, those are plastic key chains in the shape of an ear. Brilliant!

Van Gogh Museum

Van Gogh Museum Facade

For Reals

It’s official. A painting in De Fundatie Museum in Zwolle has been declared a Van Gogh. There were doubts originally, both because of the style/subject, but also because the man who had purchased it had also purchased a number of paintings that he claimed were Vermeers, which turned out to be forgeries. His credibility was called into question, as a result. However, experts from the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam have officially verified the authenticity of this work, titled Le Blute-fin Windmill, a piece from Van Gogh’s Parisian period.

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