700 + Rembrandts on show (sort of)

July 1st, 2009

Digital reproduction of 317 known paintings, 285 etchings and more than 100 drawings of Rembrandt van Rijn go on display next week at the former Amsterdam Stock Exchange.

Ernst van de Wetering, a leading Rembrandt scholar who supervised the project, said that the exhibition, unique in its kind, will offer viewers “a walk through Rembrandt’s mind.” All works will be reproduced in their original size and shown chronologically. He argues that the reproductions have the advantage of stripping away the aura of awe viewers often have when they see an original, which hinders their assessment of the work.

If that is not enough, some have been digitally enhanced by Van de Wetering himself, hoping to restore the color and detail they had when they left Rembrandt’s studio nearly 400 years ago.

Here, one may see Van der Wetering’s point and one may miss it entirely. Perhaps it’s a matter of assuming a realistic point of view. Without splitting hairs, the exhibit is at least (or cynically, at most) a very good and very big Rembrandt unfolded art book.

Being a painter, I am pretty well trained to look at paintings, so if aura is there, I assume it is produced by the inner workings of the painting  itself and not for other reasons. And again being a painter, the virtual restoration part leaves me puzzled. I accept age and decay as well as the aging and decaying of paintings. One may reasonably suspect Rembrandt did too.

“The Complete Rembrandt, Life Size”
the former Amsterdam Stock Eschange, Amsterdam
July 5 – Sept. 7. 2009

3 Responses to “700 + Rembrandts on show (sort of)”

  1. Arco Scheepen

    Hi Jonathan, great site!
    A few years back we had a ‘Rembrandt year’ here in the Netherlands (400th birthday), which was celebrated with a great number of Rembrandt exhibitions. I nearly visited them all, being a painter and a huge Rembrandt admirer. The exhibition you mention was also on display then, but I didn’t go. I’d rather see originals instead of reproductions, however good they are made. I’d like to see the texture of a painting, and I love being in awe by standing in front of the ‘real thing’. And putting a few hundred items on display is a bit much I think, far too much to take it all in. Anyway, just my 2 cents worth…
    Cheers, Arco

  2. Jonathan Janson

    I am not a lover of mega exhibitions although they offer an occasions for full-scale revisions which are at time necessary.

    I would imagine that the Rembrandt exhibit won’t do too much good except for scholars. It might be an opportunity to see the forest rather than the trees and reshuffle chronological order which considering his vast output, could be constructive.

  3. Peter Jochems

    I didn’t go. I believe the price for entrance was 12 euros which is too expensive for a bunch of reproductions. Besides that, Rembrandt never saw all his work in one place, so what’s the point? To a certain extent I would be afraid to get some distorted view of Rembrandt’s work seeing them all in one place and ‘through the eyes’ of only one scholar.

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