‘All The Rembrandts’ at Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
The Rijksmuseum currently presents — for the first and only time — a unique, temporary exhibition of all 22 paintings, 60 drawings and more than 300 best examples of Rembrandt’s prints in its collection.
This special event opens a year-long commemoration of the 350th anniversary of Rembrandt’s death. The painter died October 4, 1669. He was 63 years old.
The Rijksmuseum holds the world’s largest collection of Rembrandt’s paintings, offering the “world’s most comprehensive and representative overview of Rembrandt’s painting oeuvre.”
The museum actually holds 1300 of Rembrandt’s prints. Given their delicate nature, the 17th century prints are exceedingly fragile. That is the reason why they are rarely displayed in public.
Museum director Taco Dibbits says the event is unlikely to be repeated. “This will never happen again because the works on paper are incredibly fragile,” he explains.
Nevertheless, the museum has selected 300 of the finest and most beautiful examples for inclusion in this once-in-a-lifetime exhibition.
The Night Watch
Rembrandt’s world famous The Night Watch (not the painting’s official name) is the centerpiece of the exhibition.
Ironically, it is the only painting that is not located in the special exhibition wing. Rather, it remains in its usual pride-of-place spot in the museum’s Honor Gallery.
You may not realize this, but when it was first revealed The Night Watch was a controversial painting due to the way Rembrandt depicted the group’s members.
Rather than giving each of them equal prominence, he created the Golden Age painter’s equivalent of an Instagram-worthy snapshot: a group of militiamen who have just moved into action and are about to march off.
Dibbits: “I often say Rembrandt was the first Instagrammer. He recorded everything he saw. His friends, his wife – even on her sick bed, his son Titus and nature around seventeenth century Amsterdam. And of course himself as well, pulling crazy faces in the mirror. He made a lot of selfies.”
People are “attracted to Rembrandt because he was a rebel—he did not stick to the rules of art,” Dibbits says.
Rembrandt: the first Instagrammer
The special exhibition allows both serious and casual art lovers to get to know Rembrandt better.
When looking at Rembrandt’s oeuvre, it quickly becomes apparent that while he drew and painted many topics — such as landscapes, historical scenes, and Bible stories — he was fascinated by people.
And as we saw in his ‘Night Watch,’ he did not idealize or glorify (the Golden Age equivalent of photoshopping) his subjects.
Instead of giving us a collection of stately, posed — and face it, boring — portraits, Rembrandt panted people as he saw them, warts and all.
“Rembrandt is the artist of human beings, and he never idealizes so he really portrays people how they are — in their strengths and weaknesses,” says Pieter Roelofs, the Rijksmuseum’s head of painting and sculpture.
“Rembrandt was decisive in the way that we look at today because he was the first artist who depicted the world around him,” Dibbits adds. “Otherwise we would still be making images of gods and goddesses. Rembrandt is the first to paint us as human beings as we are.”
“I think the exhibition wonderfully explains who Rembrandt was as a person,” Roelofs notes. “So we really are brought into his private world and on the other hand it gives a wonderful overview of Rembrandt as one of the most experimental and innovative artists in Western art history.”
Another Banner Year
The Rijksmuseum, already the most visited museum in Amsterdam (and the entire country of the Netherlands), expects the numbers of visitors in 2019 to exceed those of last year.
The ‘All the Rembrandts’ exhibition, as well as other Rembrandt-related events at the museum will certainly attract many art lovers — ourselves included.
The museum hopes to welcome some 2.5 million guests — up from 2.3 million in 2018.
Don’t stand in line: Buy your entry tickets ahead of time.
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