Eye Candy for Today; Rembrandt landscape etching of trees, houses and tower

View of some houses with trees and a tower, etching and drypoint, Rembrandt van Rijn

View of some houses with trees and a tower, etching and drypoint (details) Rembrandt van Rijn

View of some houses with trees and a tower, Rembrandt van Rijn

Etching and drypoint, roughly 5 x 12 inches (12 x 32 cm); in the collection of the Rijksmuseum, which has a zoomable image on the website (also downloadble if you sign up for a free Rijksstudio account).

This is one of my favorite landscape etchings by Rembrandt, which, for me, is saying something, because I love them all. This one is just so astonishingly beautiful it boggles my mind.

First, there is the composition, the way your eye is unerringly pulled into the scene and then led through it, delighted with linear and textural effects along the way. Then there is the drama of the values, the dense dark of the trees to the left, balanced by the darks in the primary house, the lighter touches on the path in the foreground and the house to the right, and the echo of darker values on the tower in the background.

Such a feeling of space, texture, time and presence.

An etching, for all of the wonderful characteristics inherent in that medium, is still, first and foremost, a drawing. Unlike Rembrandt’s landscape pen and wash drawings — which as far as can be determined, were done for his own pleasure or practice — his etchings were more formal, intended for multiple reproductions, presumably for sale or at least as gifts for valued patrons.

At their best, Rembrandt’s landscape drawings give me an uncanny feeling of being there — of sitting next to him as he sees and draws his subject — focused, aware and contemplative.

Don’t just take my detail crops as an indication of how wonderful this drawing is, do yourself the favor of going to the Rijksmuseum’s page and zooming in at full screen.