‘Rembrandt & Co: Dealing in Masterpieces’ at DPG

‘Rembrandt & Co’ is on at the moment at Dulwich Picture Gallery, as part of the 400th birthday celebrations. Rembrandt’s 400th birthday was July 15th. To quote them:

Dulwich Picture Gallery explores, for the first time, the story of one of the most important art dealerships in 17th-century Amsterdam. The exhibition will show 19 Rembrandts from this period along with work by his contemporaries.

The idea presumably is to provide context for the Rembrandts, although a cynic might point out that it’s easier to persuade other galleries to loan you their Flincks, Ovenses and de Lairesses. They have got hold of some major works, though, most notably the portrait of Agatha Bas from the Royal collection and Man in Oriental Costume (“The Noble Slav”) from the Met:

 

I found this painting interesting because it’s so grand for what is basically just a character study – not a portrait of anyone in particular, or a historical or religious subject. It’s 5′ x 3′ 8″ and both very imposing and highly finished. I suppose there’s no reason why an important painting needs to be on an important subject, but it’s still slightly odd; almost as though it’s a quiet joke on Rembrandt’s part.

There were some nice prints as well, like this view of Amsterdam:

I always think it’s striking how much difference the medium makes. You can see similarities between Rembrandt’s prints and his paintings, particularly with the portraits and biblical scenes where the composition and the use of chiaroscuro is similar, but the feel is so different. You can see quite a few Rembrandt etchings and copperpoints on the Rembrandthuis website.

I didn’t find the context of the other artists’ work particularly enlightening, although it did emphasise the quality and distinctiveness of the Rembrandts. It also brings out the ruthlessness of time’s effect on art. These were all respected and successful artists in their day, but not many of the paintings offer much to the modern viewer. Some are quite attractive, but hardly any of them spark any kind of connection. For me, at least.

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