Vincent Price on Holland, Rembrandt and scoring with a toothsome blonde

I Like What I Know (1959)In 1959, Vincent Price recounted his life-long passion for the art world in I Like What I Know. Here are some extracts from Price’s visual autobiography, in which a 48-year-old Vincent reflects back on his time in The Netherlands in July 1928…

‘Holland was so damned quaint my feet began to hurt. The thought of wearing wooden shoes, even through fields of daffodils, gave me such psychosomatic corns I could hardly walk. And walk we had to… through endless villages and towns… seeing the sights. I understand the sea is a constant threat to Holland, but there were moments, then, when I wished that boy pulled his finger out of the dike.’

‘Amsterdam, however, was another thing. A city of canals and homey houses, clean and lean, lined up like neat children to admire their reflection in the polished streams. And there was Rembrandt. He was the first artist I had ever known personally – being the private owner of one of his etchings in its first state – so when we visited the Rijksmuseum, I lost myself from the rest of the tour to wander, stunned by these magnificently dramatic visions of mankind.’

‘There is in any collection of an artist’s work the sense that the painter himself is there, giving you a personally conducted tour of his pictures. But with Rembrandt he is really there in those superb self-portraits. I think the truth of the greatest proverb: ‘To know yourself’ must have appealed to Rembrandt more than to any other artist. There is absolute truth in Rembrandt’s approach to each of his sitters.’

‘In Apollo, the ‘Night Watch’ is the size of a special-delivery stamp; the ‘Anatomy Lesson’ is an airmail and the ‘Syndics’ has more people in it than a commemoration stamp. So, when I came upon these masterpieces in actuality, it was the size which brought me to a halt – the fact that people were life sized and lifelike, at the same time, was almost too much to take.’

‘And here in the Rijksmuseum I entered for the first time the serenity of Dutch interiors, helped by the hands of Vermeer, de Hooch, and Terborch. I never did get to see a real Dutch interior, but I didn’t need to. Through these masters I was let inside, in the sunlight, in the gleaming miracle of light they alone could achieve. I touched the surfaces and smelled the flowers in these monuments to realities. I shared a dewdrop with the thirsty flies Jan van Huysum populates his flower bouquets with. I was startled for a moment by a daring dead-blue Christ of Hugo van der Goes but overcome by Rembrandt and Vermeer. I had no room to taste these Flemish masters of the early Renaissance, but I caught a glimpse of those red-eyed virgins, weeping at the spectacle of mankind crucified, that haunts me to this day.’

‘Rubens remained an enigma. Those massive, livid mansions of crude flesh were too high a protein diet for my forming appetite. And even Hals, for all his virtuosity, his happy nature, and his presto style, escaped me then.’

‘I took on a toothsome blonde, the only contemporary appetizer on Tour 22, and determine to explore, firsthand, what Rubens had reveled in: the flesh! This girl, with a lovely, semi-southern accent, was the only one of the ten assorted ladies on our tour anywhere near my age, yet there was a decent difference in her favor and, I felt, in mine, for I hoped she’d lead me to the garden of delights and crown my young years with conquest. I tried hard, God knows, and she almost complied, but it would have to be a night in Nice, some weeks later, before my quest was satisfied. After all, a love of art is a fine thing for a young boy, but art is long – and life can be pretty damned long too, without our just desserts!’


United Kingdom to The Netherlands | 19-20 July 1928

London Mansion House 1928DATE July 19th 1928
PLACE London Eng
Today is our free day & ‘K’ and I went shopping together. First we went to the Abbey & enjoyed it for the 3rd time. Then to Buckingham Palace where we saw the changing of the guards and it was very colorful. We went over on Cheap Side where I bought 2 prints & then we came back to the hotel for lunch. After lunch we went to Dunhills [1] & all around then after an early dinner we caught the train to the boat. On the ‘St George’ we crossed the channel to the Hook of Holland.

Hook of Holland 1928DATE July 20th
PLACE Holland
We landed in Holland at 7.15 and went in buses to Le Hague and first saw the peace palace it is very beautiful and is furnished by the gifts of different nations of the world. We then went to the palace in the wood and saw the residence of Queen Wilimena. One room the Rubens Room was exceptionally beautiful. We had lunch at the ‘Terminus Hotel’ and then went thru the City of Amsterdam and took a sightseeing bus all around. Saw the National Gallery where Rembrants Night Watch hangs with his Syndics and Anatomy. This is the most beautiful exhibition of art we have seen yet. We then proceeded to the Grand Hotel [2] which is on the north sea & had dinner there & spent the night. It is a beautiful spot & very fashionable.

The Nightwatch by Rembrandt was one of Vincent's favourite works of art.

De Nachtwacht (1641) by Rembrandt was one of Vincent’s favourite works of art.

Vincent Price Travel Journal 1928 (reproduced courtesy of Peter Fuller)

Vincent Price Travel Journal 1928 (reproduced courtesy of Peter Fuller)

1928 Dunhill Lighter Ad[1] In 1927, Alfred Dunhill launched the Unique lighter, the first to be operated using just one hand. And, in 1928, Dunhill began distributing the Namiki pen company’s maki-e lacquered pens. At the time of Vincent’s visit, Dunhill was located at 30 Duke Street, St James’s SW1. The store was bombed in 1941 and renovated in the 1950s.

Grand Hotel Huis Ter Duin[2] Vincent’s tour group most probably stayed at the Grand Hotel Huis Ter Duin, today a 5-star luxury hotel, on the Noordwijk beach, located 40km from the city of Amsterday, which has also been much favoured by the Dutch royal family. The hotel also houses the one star Michelin restaurant, Latour.

[sic] Although Vincent misspells words in his journal, we have kept them as he wrote them.