Rembrandt van Rijn Blog

Rembrandt portraits juxtaposed to Degas

Feb 28 2012 09:01PM | by Staff Editor

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn was – and remains – one of the undisputed masters of the portrait, especially the self portrait, of which art historians believe he painted at least 85 (that are known, the rest are lost). He carefully, skilfully and wonderfully captured himself at many stages of his life, from the springtime of his youth to the more gnarly and depressing era of adult nappies and arthritic joints. We all know Rembrandt influenced thousands of artists, past and present, and will probably influence millions more in the future. But did you know he also had a tremendous influence on one certain Frenchman, Hilaire-Germain-Edgar De Gas, more commonly known as Edgar Degas? The preposition that Rembrandt had a significant influence on Degas is seen in the latest exhibition at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, Rembrandt and Degas: Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, which is on until May 20 for those who can make it to the Big Apple. Degas, for example, produced a nearly photocopy like reproduction of one work, Young Man in a Velvet Cap, After Rembrandt (1857), which is so  alike to the Rembrandt artwork that one would think 220 years did not... Read more

Rembrandt paintings break record

Feb 15 2012 10:56PM | by Staff Editor

For an exhibition far away from the cultural centres of the United States of America, it comes as a little bit of a surprise that just so many records were broken. But hey, we are talking about the one and only Dutch Golden Age painter Rembrandt van Rijn, so it would seem that anything is possible, especially drawing a 250,000 strong crowd to the North Carolina Museum of Art on its final weekend. If we assume that the numbers reflect adult paying visitors (which is a reasonable assumption), then that netted a nice little boost to the bottom line of $2.7 million, something any cultural institution would surely take. So what was just so great? The NCMA firstly was the only East Coast venue for the exhibition Rembrandt in America, which would obviously be a significant driver of foot traffic. However, it really just was the greatness of Rembrandt oil paintings as well: more than 50 artworks from the best American collections were loaned, valued at USD $1 billion. It was also the result of five years of organising by the museum. The theme for the exhibition was also quintessentially American navel-gazing: it looked primarily at how rich Americans bought... Read more

The Takeaway Rembrandt

Jan 22 2012 09:52PM | by Staff Editor

In 1632 Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn created an oil painting that was to lead a fairly docile life for around 350 years, before being involved in a spate of four thefts from the same gallery over a 17 year period, resulting in its unfortunate modern day nickname, The Takeaway Rembrandt. The oil painting at the heart of the matter is his Portrait of Jacob de Gheyn III, whose subject was a Dutch Golden Age engraver and the son of Dutch Realist painter Jacob de Gheyn II. Part of the reason that work seems to have been stolen so often is due to the size of the painting. At just 12 inches by 10 inches, the work is smaller than most of the other portraits from Rembrandt’s oeuvre and this is because it was originally created as half of a pair of portrait pendants. The other portrait is of de Gheyn’s friend, the Dutch poet and composer Maurits Huygens, and shows him wearing the same white collar and black doublets and facing the opposite direction. Huygens and de Gheyn had commissioned the 26 year old Rembrandt to paint them in identical formats, and he did so upon the same oak panel.... Read more

The Anatomy Lesson Of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp

Jan 10 2012 05:42PM | by Staff Editor

The Anatomy Lesson Of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp is the title of an oil on canvas painting completed by Dutch Golden Age master Rembrandt Van Rijn in 1632. The work was completed by Rembrandt early in his career when he was just 26 years old, and it is notable both for its subject matter, and for its significance in the development of Rembrandt’s reputation at the time. The work is currently housed at the Mauritshuis Museum in The Hague, The Netherlands, and depicts events that have been historically dated to the 16th of January 1632 at the Guild of Surgeons in Amsterdam. The titular surgeon, Dr Nicolaes Tulp, was well established in the Dutch medical field, at one point serving as the mayor of Amsterdam, and the 85 inch by 67 inch canvas art work is believed to have been commissioned by the Guild of Surgeons as a new group portrait of prominent councilmen and guild masters. The fact that a 26 year old Rembrandt, who had only recently arrived in the city of Amsterdam, was able to win the commission, speaks to the esteem that he was already held in within Dutch artistic circles. Also notable is that Rembrandt signed... Read more

Rembrandt’s Danaë

Dec 27 2011 01:39PM | by Staff Editor

Rembrandt Van Rijn is renowned as a painter of historical and classical scenes from antiquity, and one of his most famous works is his depiction of the character Danaë from Ancient Greek mythology. As the story goes, the mythical King Acrisius of Argos was bitterly disappointed not to have any male heirs. Desperate for advice on how to bolster the line of royal succession, he consulted the oracle at Delphi who gave him the unwelcome news that his daughter Danaë would eventually bear a son who would one day kill him. Intent on keeping his daughter childless, King Acrisius locked Danaë in a subterranean dungeon, or bronze tower depending upon the interpretation, and ensured that she was guarded day and night. Unfortunately King Acrisius’ didn’t take into account the ability of Zeus, the God of Sky and Thunder, to sneak into Danaë’s prison in the form of a shower of gold and impregnate her. She gave birth to the hero Perseus, and King Acrisius arranged for them both to be placed in wooden chest that he cast into the sea. As mythical figures are wont to do, they survived this improbable range of circumstances, and Perseus grew up and eventually... Read more

Rembrandt Helps In Brain Scan Breakthrough

Dec 25 2011 09:18PM | by Staff Editor

Work by Dutch Golden Age Master Rembrandt Van Rijn has been used at the centre of a new study by a British research team into how our brains appreciate works of art. The results of the study, conducted by a research team at Oxford University, were announced by esteemed scientific journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience and probably marks the first occasion that Rembrandt has been featured in that particular publication. At the core of the study’s goals was to determine whether prior knowledge about a painting’s authenticity could affect the way we perceive it and whether it could influence our ability to appreciate it as an artwork. Well, as it turns out, it does. If we are told that a work of art is the genuine article our brains have a completely different reaction when we view it, than if we are told the work is a fake. So how exactly did Rembrandt help out? Well the study involved the participation of 14 volunteers, a variety of Rembrandt oil paintings, and one Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the Brain, or FMRIB. Some of the Rembrandt work that the subjects were shown was the real deal, and some was not, but... Read more

Rembrandt paintings sexed up

Nov 30 2011 06:04PM | by Staff Editor

You know an exhibition is potentially much more risqué and exciting if you’re told in blazing headlines: NO ONE UNDER 18 PERMITTED. Who would have thought such a warning would be needed for Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, the Dutch hero painter from their Golden Age and someone widely considered one of the greatest painters and printmakers in history? Well, as with every artist, Rembrandt was one to also explore the sensual and erotic. Because he produced so many paintings, and because so many imitations and fakes exist, it is sometimes hard to exactly whittle down an original Rembrandt erotic etching, print or painting. One such exhibition, Rembrandt Erotic Secrets, now on at the World Erotic Art Musuem, Miami Beach, U.S.A., aims to rectify that situation now until March 31 next year. Organisers have billed this as the only such collection in the world, so they are expecting plenty of artistically inclined, and just plain perverts, through their doors. The works are drawn from the collection of The Baron of Fulwood & Dirleton, curated by Naomi Wilzig (museum owner) and assisted by David Tamargo. Those expecting luscious portraits and figure studies done by oil and canvas will be disappointed: the Rembrandt... Read more

Rembrandt’s influence on Degas: Two Young Artists

Nov 20 2011 11:52AM | by Staff Editor

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, who lived from 1606 to 1669, is a painter who hardly needs an introduction: widely considered one of the great masters in European art history, he is treated as the Netherland’s most famous art product alongside Van Gogh, and one of the most important figures in the period now known as the Dutch Golden Age. Crucially, Rembrandt managed to achieve widespread fame and fortune during his lifetime, while introducing new techniques and movements within mainstream art. His impact has been widespread, but one recent exhibition, titled Rembrandt & Degas: two young artists, at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, USA, seeks to take a micro analysis on this broad spectrum: the effect of Rembrandt artwork on another great artist, Edgar Degas. A famous Degas quote regarding an artist’s education is simply: “What I do is the result of reflection and study of the great masters.” One large influence on Degas was Rembrandt’s works, with his prints, portraits and self portraits an area of particular interest for the Frenchman. Degas first copied Rembrandt artwork at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Paris, where he concentrated on Rembrandt etchings. But the course was too rigid and he left... Read more

Rembrandt paintings in America

Oct 30 2011 11:17AM | by Staff Editor

Americans interested in art and particularly Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn should strap on their travelling shoes and make their way to what is billed as the largest collection of Rembrandt paintings in America, ever: from October 30, 2011, to January 22, 2012, the North Carolina Museum of Art (NCMA) will show “Rembrandt in America”, which will explore the true depth of Rembrandt paintings in the United States of America and the actual process of collection. The exhibition took five years to organise; as such, it features more than 75 oil paintings, some are from private collections rarely seen while some are on loan from the world’s most prestigious museums. The first question the exhibition seeks to answer is: why the interest in Rembrandt, and in particular, the collecting of Rembrandt in American? Rembrandt was the popular contemporary painter just when Americans were getting rich: as such, he was the ultimate symbol for nouveau rich Yankees who wanted to stick it to their European relatives. NCMA curator Dennis Weller said Rembrandt painting collection began in the late 19th century “when wealth moved to America, Americans began buying Rembrandts in great numbers for great amounts of cash”. He continues: “At the very... Read more

Rembrandt self portraits and Bacon

Oct 18 2011 10:16AM | by Staff Editor

“Well, if you think of the great Rembrandt self-portrait in Aix-en-Provence, for instance, and if you analyse it, you will see that there are hardly any sockets to the eyes, that it is almost completely anti-illustrational. I think that the mystery of fact is conveyed by an image being made out of non-rational marks.” Francis Bacon, quoted in David Sylvester, Interviews with Francis Bacon, 1975, page 58. Francis Bacon, the Irish figurative painter most well known for his bold and graphic imagery, devoted a large part of his career to painting portraits. A key but often overlooked source of this inspiration was the Dutch great Rembrandt, who Bacon idealised and idolised throughout his life. A new exhibition at the Ordovas gallery, Irrational Marks: Bacon and Rembrandt, will explore the influence of Rembrandt’s self portraits on Bacon’s self portraits, providing not often seen before spheres of influence. According to exhibition materials, Bacon considered Rembrandt’s self-portraits the artist’s greatest works. He is widely quoted as citing Rembrandt’s Self-Portrait with Beret as his finest, and often visited it at the Musée Granet in Aix-en-Provence. Bacon also kept a number of documents and source images relating to Rembrandt’s work in his studio. Included in... Read more

Rembrandt etching rough up and missing works

Oct 02 2011 12:16PM | by Staff Editor

It is sometimes easy to forget how much art is worth outside of the huge museums and galleries which jealously guard their trove of masterpieces. We can’t all own a version of Monet’s lilies, but some of us can certainly own a Rembrandt etching, of which there are thousands in existence. That does not mean they are cheap – often worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, they are still something to come by. Hence the prickly situation of a former state chief minister in Australia – Shane Stone is refusing to hand over a Rembrandt van Rijn drawing, with police and lawyers waiting on the side to sort out this peculiar situation. According to Australian media reports, the story begins when property developer Craig Gore gave Mr Stone a Renoir oil painting and the Rembrandt etching, entitled The Good Samaritan - for “safekeeping” (why not keep it in a bank? This is not touched on in the stories). The etching should have been paid to accounting firm PKF, according to Gore, and it is here that the story gets a lot more interesting. Mr Gore’s property company AGG collapsed recently, owing another company, the Mayfair Group, AUD $140 million. The... Read more

Stolen Rembrandt drawing causes a stir

Sep 18 2011 07:32PM | by Staff Editor

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn was a prolific artist. Early 20th century art experts believed he had painted over 600 oil paintings, etched about 400 etchings, and drew about 2000 drawings. Recent scholars from the Rembrandt Research Project have revised the numbers down a little bit – they believe only 300 authentic Rembrandt oil paintings exist, however they have kept the number of drawings and etchings at the same figure. Indeed, 2000 drawings could still be considered a conservative estimate given Rembrandt’s long life span (he lived until he was 63) and prolific output. So how does one authentic a Rembrandt drawing? That question remains at the centre of a recent art theft concerning an alleged Rembrandt artwork. Three weeks ago an alleged drawing by the Dutch master, called The Judgement, was stolen from an exhibition at the Ritz-Carlton in Marina del Ray, United States of America. But after recovering the drawing just a couple of days later police aren’t sure who actually owns it, or even if it is a genuine Rembrandt. The exhibition was put on by the Linearis Institute of Prints & Drawings, which is a public repository for the visual arts specializing in works on paper by... Read more

Rembrandt paintings and source models

Sep 04 2011 09:51PM | by Staff Editor

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn was a great Dutch painter and etcher, generally considered one of the best in European art history (and there are many) and by implication, among the most important in Dutch history and what is known as the Dutch Golden Age. His prowess was based on his precision and accuracy as a painter – and Rembrandt painting and portraits are a testament to this. A recent exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, titled Rembrandt and the Face of Jesus, traces this in some of Rembrandt’s paintings. The main premise put forward in the exhibition of Rembrandt paintings lies in the assertion that Rembrandt specifically chose Jewish models for his images of Jesus – a reverse of Degas, if you would, and his position of blatant anti-Semitism (to be fair Degas also refused to employ any Protestant Christian models as well. What a good Catholic! Clearly loving his neighbour as himself). This point of view is put forward in an accompanying essay to the exhibition, entitled Testing Tradition Against Nature: Rembrandt’s Radical New Image of Jesus by Lloyd DeWitt, associate curator of European painting before 1900 at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. DeWitt’s essay traces the instances... Read more

Rembrandt paints… and etches and prints

Aug 08 2011 10:04AM | by Staff Editor

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn is most well known for his oil paintings, but did you know that he was equally accomplished as a printer and etcher? In fact, scholars have treated his career as a printmaker separately to his career as a printer: he examined separate themes in both mediums and only on rare occasion did he reproduce his paintings in his prints. Rembrandt also started etching and printing at the early stage of his career and developed it as much, if not more, than his painting: he innovated greatly and often produced etchings that were truly avant-garde for this time. So what exactly did he do? According to Rembrandt’s diaries and records, the artist began etching when he was in Leiden, Holland. As with his paintings, the most common themes were portraits; this included family and friends as well as self-portraits. The portraits from this era are characteristically smaller compared to ones from his later period. They are also less sophisticated as the artist was just starting out in this part of his oeuvre. This would change, however, with a geographical shift to the city of Amsterdam. Once there he created larger prints such as The Good Samaritan and... Read more

Titus van Rijn: A Reminder of Life

Jul 24 2011 10:02PM | by Staff Editor

Did you know Rembrandt had a son? I didn’t. Not until yesterday, that is. Historical figures often have a disembodied quality – as though they don’t exist as part of a continuum of life that stretches to the present, but rather as a perfectly selected piece of fruit severed completely from the stems of time. Actually, I even have trouble conceiving that the guy on the subway has a wife, a child, or a mother or a father. And my mind explodes when I look at all the windows in a skyscraper and realize that each one represents a life; and not only one life but veins of lives that extend and branch out continually in forests of family trees. And so it goes that when I look at an oil painting, like Rembrandt’s Titus van Rijn in a Monk’s Habit, it compels me to acknowledge the realness, to understand the story that Rembrandt had a son, and the boy died. In the canvas portrait, the boy is buried in the bulky, brown layers and folds of the habit that seem to weigh heavily on the boy’s shoulders. His pale, chalky face emerges from the mountain of brown fabric serenely,... Read more

Rembrandt paintings and optical theory: was he Stereoblind?

Jul 11 2011 11:48AM | by Staff Editor

Could it be that one key to becoming a great artist actually lies in a medical condition known as Stereopsis? The basis for this post comes from a letter to the editor from Harvard Medical School doctors Margaret Livingstone and Bevil Conway to the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine. The letter, published in 2004, highlights some CSI like investigation into Rembrandt paintings, particularly his self portraits. The doctors found that Rembrandt may have actually suffered from Stereopsis, a condition which hinders the eye’s perception of three-dimensional spaces and depths. For a painter, however, the condition may actually be an asset as it allows an individual to simplify and paint an object more easily as their vision is more two dimensional. Doctors Livingstone and Conway arrived at their conclusion after an examination of high-resolution photos of oil paintings and etchings of self-portraits by Rembrandt. They noted most showed one eye gazing directly at the viewer, while the other eye deviated laterally. A total of 24 Rembrandt oil paintings and 12 etchings confirmed this pattern as both of Rembrandt’s eyes, particularly the position of the pupils, could be seen. For each portrait the doctors aligned an ellipse with the eye contour,... Read more

A new Rembrandt Route, antique frames, and new frames

May 24 2011 10:43AM | by Staff Editor

Just when you thought the world couldn’t acknowledge the genius of Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn any more, we’re greeted with news that a new tourist route will be created later this month (May, 2011). The route was widely known as a favourite path of Rembrandt, who would walk between his house and the village of Ouderkerk aan de Amstel. The route will be marked with a series of 10 statues, with one unveiled on an annual basis. Surely they’d look at unveiling perhaps two a year? Anyway, the first statue, according to Dutch news agency ANP, will be located in the Dutch area known as Professor Tulpplein. The actual statue’s name is unclear, although the ANP quoted it as a work from 1968 by sculptor Wim van Hoorn, featuring a young Rembrandt. We’re speculating that it was obviously based from Rembrandt paintings and drawings. At this stage we are unclear if it is the original “The Young Rembrandt” that is currently housed in Terminal 4 of the John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City. That famous statue was donated to the airport in 2006 – will it be returning home? In other news, the Dutch people themselves will... Read more

Rembrandt Paintings of the Face of Christ

May 03 2011 09:35AM | by Staff Editor

Obviously, no photographs of Jesus Christ exist. Scholars have long argued about what the man looked like, based on where he lived and the subtle descriptions of him that exist in the Bible. For a long period of time, Jesus was painted with traditional Anglo Saxon features. He was given blond hair, blue eyes, white skin and small facial features. All of this changed in the mid-1600s through Rembrandt paintings. Rembrandt van Rijn painted biblical scenes throughout his long artistic career. In the mid-1600s, he began to paint using models from the nearby Jewish community. He encouraged his students to do the same. Rembrandt and his students began to paint Jesus with more traditional Jewish features, including darker hair and skin and slightly longer noses. In the Rembrandt portrait The Head of Christ, Jesus is shown with dark, flowing hair. His face is heavily bearded, covering his slightly almond skin. His expression is peaceful, as he looks off to the left of the canvas. Rembrandt would use this same model for several more paintings, and his students would also use this model for Christ portraits of their own. While modern viewers may find this painting beautiful and touching, they may... Read more

Explore Rembrandt Through the Eyes of Collectors

Apr 26 2011 12:11PM | by Staff Editor

From February through May of this year, visitors of the Frick Collection in New York City will give viewers a special treat. The collections of Henry Clay Frick and Frederik Johannes Lugt will be displayed, together, in three large exhibit spaces. Frick famously stated that the one talent he wished he had was Rembrandt's. Henry Clay Frick purchased five paintings in the museum's permanent collection between 1899 and 1919, including the two masterpieces by Rembrandt, The Polish Rider and Self-Portrait. This is the first time that all five paintings will be displayed at the same time. Frick also purchased many paintings attributed to Rembrandt that were later attributed to the master's students. These paintings are also on display at the Frick, allowing viewers the rare opportunity to see works by Rembrandt alongside works by lesser students. It's easy to see Rembrandt's influence on the works of his students, particularly through the use of light and shadow. The student works may be slightly less delicate and slightly less technically astute, but most contain deep pockets of shadow from which human forms seem to glow and pulse. Lugt was an art historian, who began collecting Rembrandt artwork at age 12. Lugt wrote... Read more

Rembrandt Painting Found During Russian Gambling Raid

Apr 10 2011 06:09PM | by Staff Editor

In February, detectives in Moscow raided what they believed to be an illegal gambling house. According to news reports, the gambling house earned up to $10 million per month, with the help of local officials who declined to investigate and shut the business down. During the search of the building, investigators found a Rembrandt painting and a painting by Pablo Picasso. It isn't clear which paintings were found, and it isn't clear what condition the paintings are in and whether they have been cared for properly. It can be extremely difficult to determine which Rembrandt painting was found, as the artist was a prolific painter and generated hundreds of images in his life. Additionally, his students became skilled at Rembrandt's techniques, and many paintings the students generated have been falsely attributed to Rembrandt himself. If Rembrandt had produced fewer paintings, we could look for famous paintings by Rembrandt and determine which were missing or had been stolen. That simply isn't possible in this case, due to the sheer number of Rembrandt paintings available. We'll have to wait for the Russian authorities to release the name of the painting they found. Oil paintings must be cared for properly. Extreme changes in... Read more