The artist celebrating the wrinkles
| Reading time: 4 minutes
Rembrandt has been dead for 350 years – yet as relevant as ever. The exhibition "Inside Rembrandt" in Cologne exposes today's juvenile delusion – because the artist was mainly concerned with old people.
BLutjung were the two guys, with long mane, gold earring and downy beard, and were already considered the upcoming stars of the art scene: Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn and Jan Lievens around the year 1630. But what did these two friends, who rivaled each other as rivals, paint? Old men! Men and women with wrinkled, translucent skin, drooping eyelids, sunken lips and extinguished gaze.
If you walk through the exhibition "Inside Rembrandt" on the occasion of the 350th anniversary of his death in the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum in Cologne, then you will see mostly old people. It is almost a show against the juvenile delusion. "Above all, Rembrandt was fascinated by the type of wise scholar," explains curator Anja Sevcik.
Germany is a "Rembrandt hotspot"
A highlight is the large-scale "Scholar in the Study", a little-known masterpiece, because it has been hanging uninterruptedly in the National Gallery in Prague for 70 years and has only just been borrowed for the first time. Here Rembrandt also puts the white-haired intellectual in a "fancy dress", an exotic costume from the Orient.
"That was twice hip then," explains Sevcik. "In doing so, he does not present the scholar as a lecturer, but immersed in thought. He is still looking for answers. "
In addition, there are also a few youthful antipodes in the exhibition, including nymphs, rich citizens and Rembrandt's great love Saskia van Uylenburgh. And very small in the lower right corner of the painting "Bad der Diana" from Wasserburg Anholt a frog, who could be a beautiful young prince.
It is little known today that Germany has more Rembrandt paintings than the Netherlands. Cologne, however, is not exactly a Rembrandt hotspot, which has to do with the fact that the city used to be Catholic and Rembrandt was considered a Protestant painter. The most important German Rembrandt museums are the picture galleries in Berlin, Dresden and Kassel.
Nevertheless, it is now the Cologne Museum, which organizes the German special exhibition on Rembrandt's 350th anniversary from 1 November to 1 March. One should not expect to turn the corner around there and see the main works such as the "Night Watch", the "Anatomy of Doctor Tulp" or "Die Judenbraut".
Nevertheless, the exhibition offers an excellent overview of Rembrandt's universe. It contains 13 of his paintings, five drawings and 41 etchings. In addition there are 50 works by contemporaries, especially by pupils.
As Rembrandt became famous from an early age, many aspiring artists wanted to paint like him – and paid a lot of money to be trained by him. Some could imitate him so well after that that their best work could no longer be distinguished from the role model.
The most famous German "Rembrandt" was for a long time "The man with the gold helmet" from Berlin. Today he is considered the work of a successor. All that glitters is not gold.
Rembrandt addresses the viewer directly
What's so special about Rembrandt? Here, in synopsis with his contemporaries, you can see it immediately. He is just incredibly good. And with many of his works one can hardly believe that it is really over 350 years old.
For example, the "Apostle Bartholomew" from the Getty Museum in Los Angeles would be immediately dated to 1900 with its broad, sketchy brushstroke. Absolutely untypical for Baroque painting.
But the bottom line is: Rembrandt addresses a modern-day viewer quite directly. Example: the "laughing self-portrait". Again an old man, but this time it is the aged painter himself. With quick strokes thrown, the painting is in parts almost abstract.
In terms of color, it is limited to a few shades of gold and brown. At the same time the face has a really magical presence. If you stand in front of it, you have no doubt: He laughs at me! Then you suddenly have a relationship with Rembrandt – over the centuries. Such a effect does not convey a catalog or a movie. For that you have to go to the museum.
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