Public Transport

The London Transport Museum

There are few things more iconic to the city of London than its world-famous open-backed double-decker buses, resplendent in red livery. Built between 1954 and 1968, these Routemasters were in regular service for over half a century, until they were replaced with low-floor buses. If you want to jump on a Routemaster these days, the place to go is the London Transport Museum in Covent Garden, which is one of the coolest public transport museums in Europe. Some older double-deck vehicles on display are an 1882 horse-drawn tram, a horse omnibus with two lengthwise rooftop seats from around the same time, and a 1914 B-type bus, from the first mass-produced motor-bus series in the world.

London Transport Museum
1938 Tube stock, a 1963 Routemaster & a 1954 RT-type bus

London is home to the world’s first underground railway, which opened in 1863. Among the Tube highlights are an A-class steam locomotive from 1866, in use until the electrification of the Circle line in 1905, a windowless deep-level coach from 1890, and a 1938-stock motor car, the first Tube train to have its motors & electrical equipment housed beneath the floor. The presentation also looks at the growth of London after the railways were extended further out from the city centre, and at the role London’s transport system & its staff played in keeping the city moving through both world wars. A special section is dedicated to London’s transport design heritage, including the Tube map, signage & posters.

Fine Art

The Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp

Last September, the Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp, one of Belgium’s most prestigious & important museums, reopened after an 11-year closure. During this period, the 19th-century building was renovated and augmented by an entirely new museum, built within the four courtyards of the old structure, invisible from the outside. The original museum was beautifully restored to its old grandeur, and the new one is of ethereal elegance. The collection spans seven centuries, from Flemish Primitives to expressionists, featuring works by artists such as Jan van Eyck, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Peter Paul Rubens, Anthony van Dyck, and James Ensor, the greatest Belgian modernist.

Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp
The Salon, crammed with 19th-century art

Collection highlights include Van Eyck’s Saint Barbara, Madonna Surrounded by Seraphim and Cherubim by Jean Fouquet, starring French King Charles VII’s busty mistress Agnès Sorel as the Virgin Mary, Hans Memling’s portraits of Bernardo Bembo and God the Father, The Prodigal Son and The Adoration of the Magi by Rubens, Alexandre Cabanel’s painting of Cleopatra conducting research on snake venoms, The Oyster Eater and The Intrigue by James Ensor, Rik Wouters’ Woman Ironing, reclining-nude champion Amedeo Modigliani’s Seated Nude, not his best work by the way, Spring by Jean Brusselmans, René Magritte’s The Sixteenth of September, The Last Day by Pierre Alechinsky, and Günther Uecker’s Dark Field.

The Art of Painting

Vermeer at the Rijksmuseum

The painter Johannes Vermeer (1632–1675) is famous for his serene indoor scenes, his use of bright, colourful light, and his convincing illusionism. He left a remarkably small oeuvre of just 36 paintings, give or take a disputed attribution. These are generally considered the greatest treasures of every collection and are therefore rarely lent out. The largest ever Vermeer exhibition, which is currently on display at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, shows fully 28 of Vermeer’s paintings and is almost surely never to be replicated. Time-slotted tickets sell for € 30, but they are hard to get. Friends of the museum pay € 50 per year (or € 75 for two persons) and can visit any time, without booking a start time. The exhibition runs until 4 June.

Johannes Vermeer: Woman Writing a Letter, with her Maid
Woman Writing a Letter, with her Maid (c. 1670)

The four Vermeer paintings from the Rijksmuseum’s collection, including the unperturbed Milkmaid and the tranquil Little Street, are joined by three pictures from the Mauritshuis, of which Girl with a Pearl Earring (on display until 30 March) and View of Delft are best known. From the Frick Collection come three paintings, including Mistress & Maid, depicting a lady in a yellow ermine-trimmed overcoat, a garment that appears in other paintings by Vermeer as well. Another important piece, from the Old Masters Picture Gallery, is Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window, which shows a painting of Cupid that had been overpainted — not by Vermeer himself — and that was revealed again in 2021. Further highlights are Girl with the Red Hat and Woman Holding a Balance from the National Gallery of Art, Woman Writing a Letter, with her Maid from the National Gallery of Ireland, and The Geographer from the Städel Museum.

Previous Newsletter Articles

A Fancy Canal House in Amsterdam

Willet-Holthuysen House in Amsterdam is probably the most interesting canal house that is open to visitors. Its interior is an eclectic mix of 19th-century revival styles, of which Louis-XVI is dominant.

The National Maritime Museum

The Netherlands is traditionally a seafaring nation. The National Maritime Museum in Amsterdam shows how the country became linked to the sea, and explores the age-old relationship between the harbour & the city.

A Day Trip to Amsterdam

Apart from the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum & the Anne Frank House, Amsterdam has many more great places to visit, such as the Stedelijk Museum, the National Maritime Museum, the Royal Palace & the Jewish Museum.

An overview of all previously published articles can be found in Pinnable’s newsletter archive.