Tuesday, December 25, 2018

The Night Watch

"The Night Watch" by Rembrandt (1642)
Art is an opening up of the senses to something the viewer has not experienced before. This does not mean that the painting, book or novel has to trade in a piece of exotic subject matter or content. Rather it refers to the relationship between artist and viewer that’s much like the therapeutic bond between a patient and doctor and is hence something ineffable that can’t be reiterated. There are an infinity of themes great artists deal with. Obviously, the venerable group of militiamen that make up Rembrandt’s “The Night Watch” (1642) could easily be the subject of a quotidian group portrait in the hands of another artist. It’s a little like religion actually. The great artist not only has a brainstorm but the means to momentarily instill his revelation in another person. Many individuals are capable of having private esthetic experiences of such an intense nature that they’re like the innocent child who creates a spectacle  due to his or her vision of a deity. However, unlike some kind of soothsayer or savant whose word you have to take, the great artist has the means of translating his inner language into something which can be understood by all. It’s actually a very democratic act and much in line with early Christians who were interested in a relationship between humankind and God that was unmediated by the clergy or church. In this great masterpiece, Rembrandt stops time while retaining the stage presence, agency and immediacy of his subjects.

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