Monday 25 November 2019

ALS: 'Herinnering'


When I lived in Amsterdam, I habitually used to pay a quick visit to the Stedelijk Museum to have a look at a painting. No more than a minute. I was on my bike. I lived in the southern part of the capital and biked to the city centre. The strange thing is that it never occurred to me to stop at the Stedelijk on my way home. I think I was fifteen or sixteen at the time – in the early 1950s. I can’t recall this habit of mine in all its details. I remember that the painting was an Odalisque by Matisse, an Arab woman lying on a bed, scantily clad. Matisse made a great many such paintings. I can’t remember if I had to pay anything. Perhaps there was an agreement to entice school pupils in free of charge so as to make cultural individuals out of them. Another recollection from that period also has something to do with art. It has to do with a friend of mine, Victor Dorvoets. He studied at the State Academy of Fine Arts on Stadhouderskade, the sculptural department. He lived somewhere in Brabant, but did not have enough money to pay for a room. He had come to Amsterdam in a clapped-out minivan and used it as his bedroom. After a short while he was so familiar with the city that he knew at which hotel he could get a free wash, where he could fetch the surplus food from the market and in which park he could sit in the sun undisturbed. Everything went well as long as he kept out of the reach of the higher echelons of society. Because he was an introvert and bided his time, he was able to live undisturbed for a few years. All this came to an end when a wrong girl fell in love with him. Wrong isn’t the right word – she was a lovely, affectionate and lively girl (I also had my eye on her). She unfortunately lived on Apollolaan, her father had a great deal of money and influence. When he discovered his daughter’s new love after a few months, things moved fast. Not only was she sent to a boarding school in Switzerland, but Victor Dorvoet’s car-life in Amsterdam was made so difficult by the authorities that he had to leave the city – and thereby the academy as well. I have never seen him since, he belongs to my memories. 

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