All the Rembrandts – Once in a Lifetime Show at Rijksmuseum

Night Watch Detail

Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn, detail: ‘Self-portrait as the apostle Paul’ 1661 oil on canvas, 91 x 77 cm, © courtesy Rijksmuseum, de Bruijn-van der Leeuw Bequest, Muri, Switzerland

All the Rembrandts, an exhibition of all the artist’s works they own, is currently on show until June 10, 2019 in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, one of the greatest repository of the arts in the world. A once in a lifetime experience, the display celebrates 350 years since the acclaimed artist’s death.

Rembrandt van Rijn, Man in Oriental Dress, 1635. Gift of Mr and Mrs Kessler Hülsmann, Kapelle op den Bosch, © Courtesy of the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

Rembrandt van Rijn, Man in Oriental Dress, 1635. Gift of Mr and Mrs Kessler Hülsmann, Kapelle op den Bosch, © Courtesy of the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

Without reservation or exception, the realism of works by Dutch painter and printmaker Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (1606-1669) has meant he continues to wield the enduring power of one. His influence on other artists during and since his time was and has been, profound. He achieved renown by being particularly interested in the rendering of space and light, shape and form and contrasts in colour, which changed according to the time of day, emphasizing the transitory nature of all things. One of the history of art’s greatest story tellers, his brushwork and treatment of line and tone alone, dazzle.

His drawings, completed as practice exercises or as studies for other works, became much loved and collected by contemporary art lovers in Rembrandt’s age and through the centuries since his success.

 Rembrandt van Rijn, Self-portrait with the forearm leaning on a stone threshold, 1639. © courtesy Rijksmuseum

Rembrandt van Rijn, Self-portrait with the forearm leaning on a stone threshold, 1639. © courtesy Rijksmuseum

Born in Leiden, the son of a prosperous miller, Rembrandt trained in Amsterdam.

Returning to live in Leiden, he quickly achieved an excellent reputation as a portrait painter.

The artist’s portraits are among the first psychological studies in the history of art.

His self-portraits reveal him striving towards technical mastery, while infusing his works with his own innate sense of drama.

They were highlighted by a subtle use of chiaroscuro, a technique, which gave his subjects a soft, lifelike quality.

Pieter de Hooch,  detail 'Three women and a man in a yard behind a house' c1663–65 oil on canvas, 60 x 45.7 cm, ©courtesy of Rijksmuseum, (A van der Hoop Bequest)

Pieter de Hooch, detail ‘Three women and a man in a yard behind a house’ c1663–65, oil on canvas, 60 x 45.7 cm, ©courtesy of Rijksmuseum, (A van der Hoop Bequest)

During the seventeenth century cities in Europe were all undergoing substantial urban renewal, setting a pattern for future living. By 1620 most countries understood the essential principles of civilized life and applied them as best they could.

Rembrandt Van Rijin: detail The Wardens of the Amsterdam Drapers’ Guild, Known as ‘The Syndics’, 1662, ©courtesy Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Rembrandt Van Rijin: detail The Wardens of the Amsterdam Drapers’ Guild, Known as ‘The Syndics’, 1662, ©courtesy Rijksmuseum, Amsterdamz

Artists in Holland at the time often struggled in the midst of a huge artistic outpouring. Foreign artists were patronized by successful Dutch merchants and art lovers, who were busy filling their houses with paintings of the first rank, just as other connoisseurs and collectors were doing at the same time in Venice, Madrid and Paris.

Self-portrait as the Apostle Paul,  one of over 40 painted self-portraits by Rembrandt, painted in 1661, ©courtesy Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Self-portrait as the Apostle Paul, one of over 40 painted self-portraits by Rembrandt, painted in 1661, ©courtesy Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

The changes in Rembrandt’s style are remarkable when viewed, as you can with this exhibition, over his whole career. He virtually reinvented the media of portraiture, etchings and ink and wash drawings, infusing them with his own overwhelming sense of humanity and love of life.

Rembrandt van Rijn, detail Portrait of Maria Trip (1619-1683), oil on poplar panel, 107 cm (42.1 ?); Width: 82 cm (32.2 ?), ©courtesy Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Rembrandt van Rijn, detail Portrait of Maria Trip (1619-1683), c1639, oil on poplar panel, 107 cm x 82 cm, ©courtesy Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

It is a noticeable feature of his works, their physical properties were studied with almost obsessive precision and rendered with an excessive degree of exactitude, as showcased by the lacework collar on the costume of his c1639 portrait of Maria Trip.

Rembrandt Van Rijin: Landscape with Three Gabled Cottages beside a Road, etching and drypoint on paper 16.2 cm x 20.3 cm ©copyright Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Rembrandt Van Rijin: Landscape with Three Gabled Cottages beside a Road, etching and drypoint on paper 16.2 cm x 20.3 cm ©copyright Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Rembrandt is only one of the many who fought to keep his head above water by earning money on the side as well. He particularly excelled at etching, a process that involves scratching into a metal plate, which has been covered with an acid-resistant coating, then dipping the plate in acid until it mars the surface of the plate. The plate is then washed, ink is pushed into the grooves left by the acid, and finally the image is printed on paper.

Not renowned as a financial wizard, selling his etchings helped keep Rembrandt alive.

Night Watch Entire

Rembrandt van Rijn, Schutters van wijk II onder leiding van kapitein Frans Banninck Cocq, 1642, ©courtesy Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

In 1642 Rembrandt produced his most wondrous work known today as The Night Watch, which really stands for its true title, ‘Militia Company of District II under the Command of Captain Frans Banninck Cocq’ (Dutch: Schutters van wijk II onder leiding van kapitein Frans Banninck Cocq).

Considered a masterpiece, when I first encountered The Night Watch following its first restoration after a knife attack in September 1975, I thought it illuminating; entirely mesmerized as I was by the artist’s vision, as well as completely captivated by his ability to realize it so eloquently.

At the time. experiencing it first hand, as I did Michelangelo’s amazing Pieta at Rome on the same visit to Europe, meant they have both stayed with me throughout my life, as being at a pinnacle of achievement in both painting and sculpture.

Night Watch Restoration

Drawing, The Night Watch Gallery by Wilmotte & Associés Architectes

Now undergoing research for a second restoration to happen in the public domain, starting in July 2019, The Night Watch has been encased in a state-of-the-art clear glass chamber designed by the French architect Jean Michel Wilmotte to protect it. A digital platform will allow viewers from all over the world to follow the entire process Online.

Taco Dibbits, General Director Rijksmuseum notes: ‘The Night Watch … belongs to us all, and that is why we have decided to conduct the restoration within the museum itself – everyone, wherever they are, will be able to follow the process …’

Nightwatch Restoration 2

General Director Taco Dibbits with Rembrandt van Rijn, Schutters van wijk II onder leiding van kapitein Frans Banninck Cocq,1642, The Night Watch, detail photo ©courtesy Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Originally commissioned by the Captain of the Kloveniers (civic militia guards) who was also the Mayor of Amsterdam at the time, Frans Banninck Cocq, The Night Watch is Rembrandt’s first and only painting of a militia group.

His bold composition captures for the first time in a portrait, figures ‘in motion’ rather than them being depicted as traditionally, in a static pose. It used to hang in the Musketeers Meeting Hall and showcases their company leaving to complete an action led by their Captain, dressed in black with a red sash and their lieutenant in yellow, the colour of victory, with a white sash.  It makes you want to follow their quest.

Night Watch Detail

Nightwatch Restoration 2 Rembrandt van Rijn, Detail Schutters van wijk II onder leiding van kapitein Frans Banninck Cocq,1642, known as The Night Watch, ©courtesy Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam,

34 characters were recorded with Rembrandt using sunlight and shade to staggering effect, leading our eye to encounter the three central characters.

It was during Rembrandt’s lifetime 3000 guilders were paid in Amsterdam for a work by German artist Hans Holbein the Younger. This meant it became worthwhile to have a copy made with deliberate fraudulent intent, and many of the forgeries found their way into rival European galleries during the nineteenth century, only detected as fakes during the twentieth when Rembrandt’s works alone shrunk from 600+ to around 300.

Self-portrait, Rembrandt van Rijn, c. 1628, detail, oil on panel, h 22.6cm × w 18.7cm ©courtesy Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Self-portrait, Rembrandt van Rijn, c. 1628, detail, oil on panel, h 22.6cm × w 18.7cm ©courtesy Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Other Rembrandt paintings on display range from his early self-portrait as a young man to his late self-portrait as Apostle Paul, giving an overview of his entire life in art through all its ups and downs, highs and lows.

Rembrandt-The Jewish Bride-1

Rembrandt van Rijn, Isaac and Rebecca (known as The Jewish Bride) (c. 1669), © courtesy Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

His portrait of The Jewish Bride is indeed my favourite of all his art works. It goes beyond what we know about using paint on canvas as he depicts a couple, not in their first youth or beautiful in any classic sense, ensuring we know at once Isaac and Rebecca are in love with each other. It is so infinitely moving it permeates our soul as each gives love and receives it in return.

Rembrandt van Rijn, detail, Isaac and Rebecca (known as The Jewish Bride) (c. 1669), © courtesy Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Rembrandt van Rijn, detail, Isaac and Rebecca (known as The Jewish Bride) (c. 1669), © courtesy Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

This is a portrait about reverence, the deepest form of respect two people can have for each other, revealing a serious desire between them to recognize each other as important in his or her own right.

They are presented in an attitude of tender humility. They do not need to look into each other’s eyes, rather they ponder the implications of their blessedness and the meaning of total commitment.

Their love is like the gold chain he’s placed around her neck, binding them together as they surrender their freedom; willingly so.

They are facing the truth we cannot have everything; for if we love, we need to choose the way we will walk together for ourselves.

Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2019

Portrait Rembrandt

Rembrandt van Rijn, detail Portrait of Maria Trip (1619-1683), oil on poplar panel, 107 cm (42.1 ?); Width: 82 cm (32.2 ?), ©courtesy Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam Rembrandt van Rijn, Portrait of Maria Trip (1619-1683), c1639, oil on poplar panel, 107 cm x 82 cm, ©courtesy Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

All the Rembrandts

Until June 10, 2019

Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

BUY TICKETS

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.