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Rembrandt’s year helps draw a bumper crop of visitors July 16, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts.

Rembrandt is getting better with age.

Four hundred years after his birth, he’s drawing more people than ever to his native country – for everything from art exhibits to walking tours to a musical. The 17th-century Dutch master painter was born July 15, 1606. The anniversary celebration began December 15, 2005, and lasts into early 2007.

In just one highlight of the season, Rembrandt was paired up with Italian Renaissance painter Caravaggio in a show attracting droves of visitors, helping to make this a bumper year for Dutch tourism.

There were so many people crowding into the exhibits that they were lucky to see the artwork. “It was chaotic,” said a visitor, struggling to describe the mob inside the Van Gogh Museum where the Rembrandt-Caravaggio collection was on view. In the first two months, the 38-piece exhibit drew 200,000 visitors to the Van Gogh and the nearby Rijksmuseum, lifting tourism numbers that were already registering improvements in 2005 when “Rembrandt’s year” began.

Although the Caravaggio-Rembrandt exhibit closed mid-June, the Rijksmuseum will exhibit all the Rembrandt works in its collection throughout 2006, including the famed Night Watch picture. Visitors can also tour the Rembrandt House Museum in Amsterdam, where the master lived and worked for more than 20 years; take Rembrandt-themed walking tours of Amsterdam and of his birthplace, Leiden; and even see a musical called Rembrandt, running July-February at Amsterdam’s Royal Carre Theatre.

The Rembrandt hype has increased the normal traffic coming to see Holland’s canal-carved cities, centuries-old gabled houses, wooden windmills and fields of flowers. A country of 16 million people, the Netherlands had 1.4 million visitors in 2005, up 6 percent from the previous year.

You may need two days in the Netherlands to see the exhibit and the sculpted tulip displays at the Kuekenhof south of Amsterdam, the world’s largest flower garden with 7 million bulbs.

“I’ve been to the museums in Florence to see art,” the visitor said, as visitors streaming down the steps of the museum. “But this was more than claustrophobic.” The Amsterdam shows lack the towering canvasses of the Italian Renaissance, which can be seen over the heads of a jostling crowd, she said.

Horeca, an organisation that represents some 42,000 hotels and restaurants, reported the hotel industry has begun to show positive signs of a financial comeback after years spent in the red.

“Our growth is a little slower than other branches in Holland,” said William Waning, spokesman for Horeca. Last year, the hotel industry made 3.1 billion euros ($4 billion), while restaurants, cafes and fast food locations made about 9.8 billion euros ($13 billion). Provisional data show hotel numbers have increased by 4 percent for the first quarter of 2006, boosted by business events as much as the arts, Waning said.

“When international business comes to Holland, you always see that they take a few holidays,” he said. The Netherlands is well-versed in playing host to conventions. Events include a millionaires convention, an international gasoline meeting and the Amsterdam International Tattoo Convention, which took place in June. If it’s not business or art, Amsterdam has more lined up.

If you go > Rembrandt’s 400th birthday celebration is being observed in the Netherlands with events, exhibits, tours and performances. Packages and itineraries at http://www.rembrandt400.com. Highlights include: The Rijksmuseum is exhibiting all the Rembrandt works in its collection this year, including the famed Night Watch and Jewish Bride pictures.

The Jewish Historical Museum will host an exhibit November 10-February 4 shedding light on Rembrandt’s connections to Judaism. The artist lived and worked in Amsterdam’s Jewish quarter and many of his paintings depicted Biblical scenes or Dutch Jews.

The Rembrandt House Museum in Amsterdam, where the master lived and worked for more than 20 years, offers tours and exhibits. Walking tours are being offered in Amsterdam and Rembrandt’s birthplace, Leiden. Rembrandt, a musical, runs July-February in Amsterdam’s Royal Carre Theatre.

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