Monday, August 5, 2013

Rembrandt the Etcher

Rembrandt the Etcher
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Frances Vrachos Gallery (Gallery 144)
Aug. 10, 2013 - Feb. 17, 2014

Rembrandt etchings on exhibit

Detail from
Christ Crucified between the Two Thieves (“The Three Crosses”)
Rembrandt Harmensz. Van Rijn, 1653. Drypoint.
Credit: Museum of Fine Arts

Rembrandt became my main man after I stopped hanging around with the Impressionists. They started literally fading on me after I saw an exhibit at the MFA, in the early 1970s, of Monet's numerous paintings of water lillies. Although astoundingly beautiful, many of the paintings were actually more like tonal color fields. The lack of representation didn't bother me, but I had some sense that this was the culmination of a movement. What could come after these airy confections?

Maybe I was being too hard on the Impressionists. Actually, my favorite of the bunch was Van Gogh,who wasn't actually an Impressionist at all, although he usually got lumped with them. He was, however, a Dutchman, just like Rembrandt. It was definitely the humanity, the everyday-ness of both painters that attract me. Before seeing the Monet exhibit, I had already started to venture into Northern Europe. Albrecht Durer was of particular interest to me. Not Dutch, but actually of Hungarian descent, he did paintings and engravings of Biblical scenes like Rembrandt, as well as a number of self-portraits. And then there was El Greco, whose paintings I saw at the Met In New York. Actually, the planes of almost solid color that he often used were similar to Van Gogh's method, without, of course, the slabs of paint that he used.

What does all this have to do with Rembrandt? Nothing more than what comes to my mind and the fact that Rembrandt rose above all of them in my estimation. So much has been written of Rembrandt, that I really can think of no more to say. One Christmas, a girlfriend bought me a coffee table book called, I think, Life of Christ. It consisted of paintings, drawings, and etchings by Rembrandt depicting various scenes from Christ's life. This cemented the bond for me. The drama, the subtlety, the pain, the joy, all this and more were more present for me than in the works of any other painter. Or etcher.

The upcoming exhibit, Rembrandt the Etcher, consists of 45 works, most of which come from the MFA’s collection. The show promises to "explore the unprecedented range of subject matter" that Rembrandt treated in the over 300 etchings he made during his life. Speaking of his life, Rembrandt recently celebrated his 407th birthday on July 15. On July 26, Mick Jagger celebrated his 70th birthday. Do you think that 337 years from now, in 2350, the world will remember Mick or the Rolling Stones? Will Rembrandt's 744th birthday be remembered?

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