Now here’s an occasion worth celebrating.
Today marks the 400th anniversary of the birth of Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, the rootenist, tootenist, high-falootenist six-brush packing hombre ever to put lines and colors on a surface! Yow!
Rembrandt, as you might guess, is one of my very favorite artists of any kind, any time, any which way you look at it.
He was perhaps the most fluid, facile and prolific draughtsman in the history of art and is often referred to as the finest of painters. I mean this guy was the man.
His paintings have an immediacy and a presence that carry the impact of the most powerful of old master techniques, with incredibly realized faces glowing out at you from the lusterous depths of layers of transparent glazes, combined with a stunningly modern application of paint in bold physical splashes. I mean big, thick chunks of white for highlights right on top of layer after layer of smooth, painstakingly painted tones, Rembrandt was both a culmination of the traditions that came before him and a leap into the future.
Rembrandt’s paintings are quiet, rowdy, calm, violent, introspective, boisterous, dramatic, soothing, jarring, dark and brilliant.
And his drawings… ah, Rembrandt’s drawings… what a world they invite you into. Seemingly simple quick strokes of reed pen and bistre ink that captured the world in front of his eyes like a magic lantern, brilliant scribbles that are towns, houses, trees, people and animals created out of so few lines and such expressive strokes that it could only be the result of some kind of artistic alchemy, Rembrandt’s drawings are the place where pen and paper fell in love.
Did I mention that he was a master of chiaroscuro, the creation of form though strong contrasts of dark and light, giving his work extraordinary drama and power? No? Well, I should mention that. Did I mention that he was astonishingly prolific, leaving us over 600 paintings, 300 etchings and more than 2000 drawings (and God knows how many have been lost)? No? Well, I should mention that. And did I mention that he was probably the finest etcher that ever lived? No? Well, I should mention that too.
Rembrandt’s paintings, etchings and drawings are impressive enough in books and online reproductions, but you must see them in person to understand.
I am very much looking forward to a major exhibit: Strokes of Genius: Rembrandts Prints and Drawings at the National Gallery in Washington this November.
See my post about the Rembrandt vs. Caravaggio exhibit for more information on the celebration of his 400th in Amsterdam, including special exhibits, events and even stage plays, and my post about Rembrandt’s Drawings for more of my effusive ramblings about how cool he was.
Then go to Jonathan Jansonâ€™s amazing site devoted to the artist and his works: Rembrandt: life , paintings, etchings, drawings and self protraits, specifically to the page listing museums that have Rembrandt works in their collections, look up a museum near you and visit a Rembrandt today.
Addendum: Lok Jansen writes to add that the Rijksmuseum has superb, high-resolution images online of many Rembrandt works. Choose an image from the thumbnail scroller and click on it to view that image, then click on “Enlarge” for the hi-res version.