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 a biography of Rembrandt as well, illustrating the work with his own copies of Rembrandt paintings. Lugt collected many pieces of Rembrandt artwork during his lifetime, including many sketches and drawings. Over 60 of these drawings are on display at the Frick. Over 30 drawings were executed by pupils of Rembrandt, allowing viewers to look for differences between drawings by Rembrandt and drawings by his students.
The Self Portrait by Rembrandt on display in this collection is truly striking. Paintings by Rembrandt often contained self-portraits, but this particular painting shows a sort of wish fulfillment at work. He shows himself draped in furs, with ample jewelry and a silver-tipped cane. During this time, however, Rembrandt was far from powerful. He'd declared bankruptcy and was running from creditors. He'd sold his art collections and his home. Yet here, he seems strong and powerful. Perhaps this painting by Rembrandt was a way for the artist to remind himself of his former power, and his inner strength.
The Polish Rider by Rembrandt also provides ample food for speculation. It is unclear who the model is, and what this painting is to teach us. While the rider looks calm and serene, his horse runs at top speed and the sky is cloudy and dark. This is truly a painting by Rembrandt worthy of close inspection.
If traveling to New York is out of the question for you, browse our extensive online collection of Rembrandt paintings. Observe how he documented human figures through his sketches. Look at completed paintings and marvel at his use of color and shading. Build your own Rembrandt collection for closer study.