Zeist to Otterlo

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Between Ede and Otterlo

I was greedy with the kilometres yesterday: I gobbled them all up and left hardly any for today. After lunch in Ede (a town so undistinguished that it doesn’t even sell postcards of itself), I found myself at my destination with most of the afternoon before me. So, in view of tomorrow’s forecast for wet weather, I headed to the Kröller Müller Museum a day earlier than expected to walk round the sculpture garden.

The 40 kilometres I cycled were pleasant ones. I started off straight away with a sense of déjà-vu – possibly faux, but I’ll check when I get home – as I passed a small animal park in the woods. Yes, I had camped somewhere around here 32 years ago on a long cycling holiday. I wasn’t sure if the recollection made me feel ancient or forever young.

I also remembered that the Dutch like to display their pumpkins and other squashes at the end of summer, sometimes offering them for sale:

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and sometimes going overboard:

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Woods and heathland start at Ede, along with something like hills.

Otterlo, right on the edge of the Hoge Veluwe national park, is a village full of tourists, but since most of them are on bicycles or in coaches they don’t impinge in the same way as, say, in the New Forest, where tourists make everywhere seem cramped. (For a small country, the Netherlands seems to have quite a lot of space*.) I’m staying here purely to visit the Kröller Müller Museum, but I can see that I shall find other things to tempt me.

The museum itself was designed by Henry van de Velde (whom I come across all over the place. Last time, I think, it was Chemnitz) in 1921. It’s rather understated, but I think there were financial problems:

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and the later glass extensions taking the building into the trees complement it wonderfully. (You can see what the Whitworth in Manchester was aiming at.)

As for the sculpture garden . . . well, it’s a delight.  And enormous. It reminds me of the last time I volunteered in the nature reserve. There were a couple of small children running around excitedly, looking for painted pebbles. (Apparently it’s the summer holiday craze: you decorate pebbles, place them somewhere, and you look for other children’s pebbles, and place those elsewhere.) Well, today there were only adults, and they strolled rather than ran, and obviously there was no possibility of picking up the sculptures and placing them somewhere else . . . but otherwise there was that same thrill of discovery as you spied a Henry Moore on a knoll. The searching and noticing was perhaps more interesting than some of the finished products, but sometimes you could see a great deal of wit at work.

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Piet Slegers, Landschaps-zonneproject, 1979 – the bit of it that captured me

The setting is crucial: it’s perfect and enhances – or at least compensates for the more tiresome – pieces. I’m not sure how much I would notice this one if it weren’t floating on a pond and slowly rotating. At first it looked like a bathtub duck, but then it moved

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Marta Pan, Sculpture flottante, 1960-61

and looked more like a Velasquez Infanta. I also had my first encounter with Gerrit Rietveld, with his pavilion sheltering some Barbara Hepworth sculptures. I liked the transparent laciness of the brickwork and the variety of vistas that were offered. Again, it was made by the setting.

At one point I realised how I was looking out for sculptures at the same time as searching for woodpeckers: both hidden amongst the trees and undergrowth.

This one amused me and made me think of Ozymandias or the colossal broken statue in Rome of Constantine and his 2-metre-long foot. (“If that’s his foot, how big was the rest of him?!”) Or perhaps they’re just satisfying shapes.

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This one took me back again to my last session on the reserve, when I helped to remove a blue tent abandoned by a vagrant, but actually it’s Chicken Licken’s nightmare come true:

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Luciano Fabio, La doppia faccia del cielo, 1986

Goodness knows how curators decide what is art and what isn’t! Is it enough that it provokes thoughts and interest? (But anything can do that to a receptive mind, so perhaps not.)

And, to finish, here’s that Henry Moore on a knoll:

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* Since having that thought, I have read that China is building a 95,000-square-kilometre “simulated Mars station” on the Tibetan plateau. The Hoge Veluwe national park is 55 square kilometres . . .

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