Tonight, I got to listen to a lecture on Rembrandt, by one of my art heroes, Andrew Graham-Dixon (lecturer and TV presenter). This was part of the celebration of NADFAS’ 50 years and also a spectacular Rembrandt lecture at the RSA, Edinburgh.
I’m not particularly a fan of Rembrandt, but I do find the lecturer’s style enlightening and enjoyable, and was prepared to enjoy a good lecture (see other references to Graham-Dixon’s work as commentator in this blog, on David Bomberg, and Paul Nash.) Interestingly, I gather, from the talk that Mr Graham-Dixon is not so keen on Rembrandt as he is on Caravaggio – whom he lectured on, earlier in the year.
Points I did gather from the lecture:
- Rembrandt is a mixer of genres (portrait, landscape, painter, printmaker….)
- why the British tend to like Rembrandt is because his work is dark, sombre, Protestant and contains darkness with a dash of reality and mess
- Rembrandt is more of a collagist than Caravaggio – there’s almost no sense of depth, whereas Caravaggio’s figures were more sculptural
- Rembrandt’s works communicate love, especially when viewed in bulk
- He set out to paint “the greatest and most natural movement/emotion” (from the Dutch, that last word can be translated either movement OR emotion.
Also – I gathered that Rembrandt painting full-length figure portraits, at the time, took great chutzpah. Full-length portraits were originally of the gods, and then of monarchs, only.
The whole of landscape painting grew from religious art: from featuring the crucifixion, in many cases. Rembrandt not only was famous for creating a massive print of Christ on the cross – but in the first year of his first wife’s death, he drew a landscape of 3 trees. Without having to state it, the scene is reminiscent of the crucifixion of Christ and its attendant suffering.
And, finally, one of my favourite pictures at any exhibition – the way crowds move through them – the way they look.