Do not miss the, rare, opportunity to admire a large number of etchings by the Dutch master at BOZAR. You will discover 85 pieces from the private collection of Jaap Mulders who bought his first etching 20 years ago at TEFAF. Since then, he has acquired almost half of the etchings by Rembrandt who, in addition to 320 paintings, produced no fewer than 290 engravings.
These etchings presented in a ridiculously small space are among the rarest because they were printed in the artist’s studio. It is worth pointing out that these prints kept being produced until the 19th century, wherever copper plates were available. However, they were no longer of the same quality of course. The first prints still reveal the spontaneity of the drawing, one of the artist’s great qualities.
Major artists of the Baroque period would create etchings of their paintings to help disseminate – and therefore promote – their work. But they entrusted this task to specialists. This was the case of Rubens, for example. He employed several engravers. So did Van Dyck. In contrast, Rembrandt seemed to have taken a liking to this relatively new medium. He perhaps saw it as a more lucrative way to draw than traditional drawing would allow, since, in essence, only one copy was produced. We know that, towards the end of his life, when he was short of money, he sometimes sent his son Titus into the streets of Amsterdam to sell a bundle of prints. But he was probably ahead of his time in understanding the new dimension afforded by this technique.
This is obvious in his self-portraits. He engraved 31! In most cases, these are studies of different facial expressions which could be used in other compositions. He also represented himself with Saskia, which was rather exceptional in thoses days, especially in an etching. The Bible remains a very important subject. Rembrandt was able to draw inspiration from his collection of 3,000 biblical images. For another subject that still concerns us today, he only had to walk through his neighbourhood: he then depicted beggars, buskers and charlatans without casting any moral judgment. His nudes were highly criticized for their outrageous realism, while today, no fashion magazine would publish such nudes because they do not fit beauty standards! During his walks near Amsterdam, Rembrandt drew and then engraved simple, flat and empty landscapes, except for the Amsterdam skyline sometimes looming on the horizon, creating a picture that still has an impact on us today.
BOZAR is providing a tablet to visitors which contains a lot of information and makes it possible to study the etchings in more detail. There is no catalogue, the exhibition space is cramped, yet discovering such a fascinating collection is definitely a treat!
Rembrandt in Black & White
Palais des Beaux-Arts
23 rue Ravenstein
Until 29 May
Tuesdays – Sundays, from 10:00h to 18:00h, Thursdays until 21:00h