Rembrandt at 400: Better Than Ever: The Great Dutch Master Excelled in a Number of Mediums, as His Drawings Reveal the Artist's Keen Powers of Observation While His Printmaking Proved to Be Uniquely Bold and Innovative

USA TODAY, September 2006 | Go to article overview

Rembrandt at 400: Better Than Ever: The Great Dutch Master Excelled in a Number of Mediums, as His Drawings Reveal the Artist's Keen Powers of Observation While His Printmaking Proved to Be Uniquely Bold and Innovative


REMBRANDT VAN RIJN'S graphic works illustrate, perhaps even better than his paintings, the range of the great 17th-century Dutch master's creative genius--his spontaneity, artistic inventiveness, and rethinking of traditional media. His subject matter ranges from the directly observed (landscapes, portraits, and sketches of people and animals from life) to the invented (most notably biblical scenes).

Rembrandt (1606-69) was fascinated with subjects from the Old and New Testaments and, in his portrayals of these subjects, he reveals the realistic human emotion and narrative detail that these stories inspire. Landscapes were another favored subject. "The Three Trees" (1650) in which he evoked the typically blustery and rainy Dutch weather, is the most intensely dramatic of these works. He created many of his landscape drawings, like "Houses by the Water" (c. 1652) in nature, on his wanderings through the countryside outside of Amsterdam. He made others, like the classically composed "Cottages Among Trees" (c. 1648-50), once he had returned to his studio.

Rembrandt's drawings reveal the artist's keen powers of observation. He executed them with the utmost freedom and spontaneity, yet no line is extraneous--he invested each stroke with meaning, either representational or expressive. Among his outstanding drawings are "Two Cottages" (1635-40), "Two Studies of a Woman Reading" (1635-40), and "Study Sheet with Three Women and a Boy" (1635-40).

Rembrandt was a bold and unconventional printmaker. He worked some etchings almost like paintings, combining techniques, leaving veils of ink on the copperplate, printing on varying supports, and radically reworking images from state to state. These were characteristics that few of his contemporaries or pupils ever approximated. …

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Rembrandt at 400: Better Than Ever: The Great Dutch Master Excelled in a Number of Mediums, as His Drawings Reveal the Artist's Keen Powers of Observation While His Printmaking Proved to Be Uniquely Bold and Innovative
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