Eye Candy for Today: Rembrandt pen drawing along the Amstel River

A bend in the River Amstel near Kostverloren House, Rembrandt van Rijn, pen and brown ink drawing, with wash
A bend in the River Amstel near Kostverloren House, Rembrandt van Rijn, pen and brown ink drawing, with wash (details)

A bend in the River Amstel near Kostverloren House, Rembrandt van Rijn; pen and brown ink with brown and grey washes, heightened with white bodycolour on oatmeal paper; roughly 5 x 10″ (14 x 25 cm). Original is in the collection of the Chatsworth Estate.

It would be easy to glance at a drawing like this — a sketch really — take it in briefly, and pass on by, on the the next, more colorful artwork. But to me, these pen and brown ink landscape drawings by Rembrandt are among my favorite works in the entire history of art.

Many of them, on more devoted looking, reveal themselves to me as transcendent and poetic.

Perhaps it’s because I can project myself into them — even better than with a more “realistic” painted view — and picture myself sitting there on the bank in the shade with my own sketchbook and pens, immersed in the day, the smell of the river, the sounds of water lapping at the boats, the gentle clop of the horses passing by, perhaps a gentle breeze waving through the sun-topped line of trees.

Just as easily, I can picture Rembrandt sitting there — a sheaf of paper in his lap, reed pen and brush in his hands with perhaps two bottles of iron gall ink at his side, one full strength, one diluted for washes — immersed in the scene and his drawing while his troubles (of which he certainly had his share) recede into the distance.

As far as can be determined, these pen, brown ink and wash drawings were created simply for Rembrant’s own benefit, either as practice, or (I think) simply for pleasure. There is no known connection identifying them as preliminary for paintings or even for any of his similarly handled etchings.

Many of these, and other Rembrandt drawings in brown ink and wash, are listed as drawings in bistre ink (made from wood-burning soot), but chemical analysis indicates that a high percentage of them may have been drawn with darker iron gall ink, usually made from oak galls, iron salts and tannic acid. I’m guessing that may be the case here.

Renbrandt’s notation is breezy, economical and seemingly effortless. Just a few gestural lines — but brilliantly sweeping, lightly touched with tone — produce a solid line of trees, a river and its bank, boats and horsemen. Their sun bathed and shade dappled textures are created almost entirely in our mind’s eye.

Because it has happened to me on occasion, I have the distinct feeling that drawings like this might have felt to Rembrandt like they were flowing directly from nature, into his eyes, and out through his pen onto the paper — while he observed. There is little feeling here of artifice or the construction of a drawing as a work of art.

You’re unlikely to see what I mean from the small image and detail crops I can present here. Go to this link and view the drawing as large in your monitor as you can to get the feeling I’m trying to convey.


Zinaida Serebriakova (revisited)

Ukrainian painter Zinaida Serebriakova
Ukrainian painter Zinaida Serebriakova

Zinaida Yevgenyevna Serebriakova (née Lanceray) was a Ukrainian painter who was active in the early 20th century. Like most Ukrainian painters of the time, she is often referred to as a Russian painter because Ukraine was under the Russian Empire at that point.

I first featured her on Lines and Colors in 2014. Though she also painted landscapes, interiors and a number of figurative subjects, she was best known for her portraits.

Even today, they look fresh and immediate, and many have the feeling of being casually unfinished. She painted her own children many times. She also painted a number of self portraits, several of which feature her children (image above, bottom).

For more images & information, see my previous post on Zinaida Serebriakova


Eye Candy for Today: Eugen Jettel landscape

River Landscape with a Resting Herd, 19th century oil on canvas landscape painting by Eugen Jettel
River Landscape with a Resting Herd, 19th century oil on canvas landscape painting by Eugen Jettel (details)

River Landscape with a Resting Herd (Flusslandschaft mit ruhender Herde), Euren Jettel; oil on canvas, roughly 25 x 38 inches (64 x 97 cm). Link is to image page on Wikimedia Commons. The image was sourced from an auction house, so I don’t know the location of the original.

A beautiful landscape by late 19th century Austrian painter Eugen Jettel shows his naturalistic but painterly appraoch to value, color and texture.


Arkhip Kuindzhi (revisited)

Arkhip Kuindzhi, Ukrainian painter
Arkhip Kuindzhi, Ukrainian painter

Arkhip Kuindzhi is a Ukrainian painter I first featured on Lines and Colors in 2012.

Kuindzhi was born in Mariupol in the 1840’s (the exact date is not known), at a time when that part of Ukraine was subjugated by the Russian Empire. He was active in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

He was largely self-taught but also studied with Adolf Fessler, a student of the influential Ukrainian painter Ivan Aivazovsky, and also at St. Petersburg Academy of Arts for a time.

Kuindzhi joined the Peredvizhniki a cooperative group of painters from the Russian Empire, who defied the restrictions of the Academy and banded together to present independent exhibitions in various cities. Peredvizhniki is roughly translated in english as The Itinerants or The Wanderers.

Kuindzhi was noted for his landscape paintings, which featured daringly different compositions and dramatic lighting.

There is an interesting article on the artist and his wife on Arthive: Love Story in Paintings. Arkhip and Vera Kuindzhi.

Darkness plays an important role in many of his compositions, which often seem to be either closed in or completely spare and open. Unfortunately, I have found many of the reproductions of his work on the web seem to have the problem of being too dark, so — as always with reproductions of art images on the web — don’t assume that the images you’re seeing are always accurate.