CLEVELAND - The largest collection of authentic works by Rembrandt in a century is opening this weekend at the Cleveland Museum of Art.
The seventeenth century Dutch artist Rembrandt van Rijn is one of the most important artists in the history of Western art. Fifty of his most extraordinary works and pieces inspired by him follow the fascinating story of those who collected Rembrandt in America, and the evolution of the Dutch master through his career.
It is the gaze of the master himself that greets visitors to Rembrandt In America, opening this Sunday, February 19, at the Cleveland Museum of Art .Rembrandt van Rijn. Self-Portrait, 1659 ushers you into the emotionally intimate, luminous work of the Dutch artist.
Known for his expressive portraiture and narrative style, the Cleveland exhibit makes the most of these treasures, presented in a series of galleries that showcase the shadow and light Rembrandt used to capture his subjects so authentically. Co-curator Jon Seydl said Rembrandt "had a way of capturing personality, life, capturing figures in three dimensions and he was an incredible storyteller."
The largest traveling exhibition of this artist in a century, Rembrandt In America presents 50 works by or inspired by Rembrandt chronologically. The artist's own intriguing life and the stylistic changes in his work are evident.
Seydl said the show also addresses the many questions over what is or is not a Rembrandt that have surrounded these works through centuries.
"Rembrandt had a lot of workshops, students, inspired many other painters, during and after his lifetime. In subsequent centuries, a lot of these distinctions got confused. At one point it was thought there were some 900 paintings by Rembrandt. Now it is closer to 300. Part of what we're doing with the exhibition is sorting out the distinctions between those voices," he said.
Seydl, the Paul J. and Edith Ingalls Vignos Jr., Curator of European Paintings and Sculpture (1500-1800) is the co-curator for Rembrandt In America.
"Just to work with these paintings is a huge privilege. It's just unbelievable to see these paintings come out of the crates. You think you know what they're like, but it's never as great as the work is in person. They do something to you when you look at them that is completely different from what you can see in on a computer screen or in an art book."
Planning for this exhibition began about five years ago, Seydl said. Such a show depends greatly on the generosity of other institutions and private collectors. They need to be persuaded to part with their treasures for a full year. "Initially it was curators thinking about the ideal checklist, what are the fantasy pictures we'd want in the exhibition. And in fact, we actually got a huge number of those."
The exhibition came to Cleveland from North Carolina, where more than 150,000 people from all over the country came to see it, an affirmation of it's drawing power. Alongside Rembrandt In America, the Cleveland Museum of Art is also presenting Rembrandt Prints from the Morgan Library and Museum. Sixty etchings from the biggest collection of Rembrandt prints in the country show Rembrandt's talent for using technical means in his artistic expression.