Friday, May 31, 2019

All the Rembrandts at the Rijksmuseum

Self-Portrait as the Apostle Paul (1661)
Why is it that Venice and Amsterdam have produced so many great painters? What about these below sea level port cities that defies the elements to produce a Rembrandt, a Titian or a Tintoretto? "All the Rembrandts" at the Rijksmuseum does not answer these questions. Perhaps that's best left to geographers like Jared Diamond. The enormity of the present undertaking, comprising 60 drawings, 300 prints and 22 paintings is hard to grasp. The humanity is somewhat like placing the collected works of Dickens or Shakespeare before your eyes at once.  “Syndics of the Drapers' Guid” (1662) recalls the urgency of “The Night Watch,” (1642). That masterpiece is not in the current exhibit, remaining in the museum’s Gallery of Honor not far from Vermeer’s “Milkmaid” (1660). “Self-Portrait as the Apostle Paul” (1662) painted when the artist was 55 neatly underscores one of the soaring curatorial points of the show: that Rembrandt was his own best subject. He was a cheap date as far as modeling is concerned and had vast repertoire of emotion which he freely drew upon and employed, particularly in the context of the tronie—a painterly form of commedia dell’arte. Rembrandt costumed in the varying iterations of his being was the Cindy Sherman of his day. Seeing the show recalls Tolstoy’s "every unhappy family is unhappy its own way." Nobody is going to glom on to the same thing. But to quote Death of a Salesman “attention must be paid” to “Student at a Table By the Light of an Oil Lamp” (1642). The subject, his forehead resting in his hand, is barely visible in the darkness of the cross-hatched background. But what a majestic rendering of the imbibing of knowledge—from darkness into light! Rembrandt was not afraid of the erotic or the perverse as demonstrated in the “The French Bed” (1646), whose female figure is caught not only in flagrante but depicted with two left arms, not  knowing whether to grasp her lover or lie submissively.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.