Rembrandt Drawings from American Collections

Rembrandt Drawings from American Collections

Rembrandt Drawings from American Collections

Rembrandt Drawings from American Collections

Excerpt

We seem to have made great progress in the exhibition of works of art by overcoming the crowded hanging of the old picture galleries and presenting the individual painting, sculpture, or drawing in relative isolation, so that the spectator can duly concentrate on the single masterpiece. Yet the exhibitions that have made the biggest headlines in recent decades both in Europe and America--whether of Picasso or of Rembrandt, of van Gogh, Gauguin, or Matisse--have been of such giant size that the ordinary visitor was hardly given a chance for more than a minute's attention to the individual item. So while we may be proud of having attained a more appropriate form of presentation, we defeat our own purpose by offering an unreasonable quantity that invites superficiality rather than depth of enjoyment and understanding.

Such considerations are not out of place in an attempt to evaluate the present show of "Rembrandt Drawings from American Collections." It comprises 77 items, in contrast to the much larger exhibition of 1956 in Rotterdam and Amsterdam, which presented over 250 drawings. Yet our show gives as strong an impression of the range and quality of the great Dutch master's draughtsmanship as one can absorb in a single extensive visit. And its size and level of excellence are particularly impressive when we consider that only during the present century have American collectors and museums made an earnest effort to acquire Rembrandt drawings--at a time when already the bulk of the master's work had long since found permanent homes in the Print Rooms of Paris and Amsterdam, Berlin and London, Vienna, Dresden, and Stockholm.

How representative, then, of the master's whole work and development is this limited number of Rembrandt drawings? We find in it brilliant and precious items of almost every phase and category of the artist's work. Even the early years in Leyden, before 1631, when Rembrandt moved to Amsterdam, are represented by fine examples such as the bold sketch of a beggar woman (No. 1) and the two wonderful studies of old men from the National Gallery (Rosenwald Collection) and from Mrs. Lessing J. Rosenwald (Nos. 2, 3). In the latter one can admire the young Rembrandt's unusual power in characterizing aged people. Subjects like these the artist favored throughout his life.

The first Amsterdam period, which lasted through the 1630's and coincided with Rembrandt's greatest worldly success, is represented by vivid . . .

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