Rembrandt Britain's Discovery of the Master
Rembrandt : Britain's Discovery of the Master at the Royal Scottish Academy is a major exhibition running from 7 July 2018 to 14 October 2018 that examines not only how the British public reacted to Rembrandt’s work during and after his lifetime, but also his influence on major British artists both past and present.
Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (1606- 1669) was a Dutch draughtsman, painter, and printmaker who even now, some 350 years since his death, is a name most people would associate with art, and to many artists, still the “artists’ artist”. With only a few dips here and there over the centuries as art tastes and economics changed, Rembrandt has continued to shine brightly in the artistic firmament. Why is this so? This carefully researched and co-ordinated exhibition sets about answering this and many other questions surrounding the artist’s life and work.
On display are works from both British and overseas public collections as well as private works, which combined result in the opportunity to see well known works as well as those rarely seen in public. Some of the most famous Rembrandt paintings are here –“ Belshazzar’s Feast”, “ Girl at the Window”, “An Old Woman Reading”, “A Man In Armour”, and of course one of the famous self portraits.
Portraiture of course will take up a large amount of any Rembrandt exhibition as this was his main body of painted work. Rembrandt surprisingly (well to me anyhow) painted relatively few landscapes, but “The Mill” is definitely one of his most famous, and one which so many painters over the years have copied. Also on display is Rembrandt’s only known night-time landscape, “Landscape with the Rest on the Flight into Egypt”.
The strength of this exhibition is that it highlights not only the paintings of Rembrandt, but his output as a highly skilled and innovative engraver, and “The Three Crosses ('Christ Crucified between the Two Thieves')” is considered by many to still represent the artistic peak of the engravers’ craft. This engraved print area of Rembrandt as an artist is one that I know far too little about, so it was enlightening to discover more about this area and to consider the fact that, during his lifetime, this was an artist who not only saw commercial success with his paintings, but also with his prints, both of which were highly collected and prized by art lovers. The idea of Rembrandt as a successful “poster” artist operating in a mass production media (even if very limited in numbers to what we recognise now) was new to me.
Artists across the world have for centuries been influenced by the works of Rembrandt, and this exhibition skilfully gives an insight into how British painters from Joshua Reynolds (1723-92) to John Bellany (1942-2013) and many others have been inspired by his legacy. For a short time, we get to view part of this legacy too in this exhibition that features 15 key works in oil (and further oils by his workshop) as well as an extensive selection of 15 fine drawings and more than 20 prints.
Review by Tom King
Part of Edinburgh Art Festival. REMBRANDT
BRITAIN’S DISCOVERY OF THE MASTER
7 July – 14 October 2018
Royal Scottish Academy
Princes St, Edinburgh EH2 2EL
0131 624 6200 nationalgalleries.org
Tickets £15.00 to £10.00
Concessions available FREE to children under 12