CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

Meesterwerken op papier: het geheim van de lijn

Masterpieces on paper: the secret of lines Exhibition: 21 June - 19 September 2011

From the museum press release

As part of its Masterpieces on paper series, the Rijksmuseum presents the exhibition The secret of lines. This minor exhibition features 18 masterfully crafted 16th- and 17th-century prints and drawings from the Rijksmuseum collection, which demonstrate the incredible artistic versatility of lines. Whether created in a restrained or ebullient style using a drawing pen or an etching needle, each line embodies the signature of its creator.

Much like etching and engraving, drawing also starts with lines. You can use lines to draw just about anything. A single line is sufficient to create a shape, while hatching and crosshatching can be used to render light-and-dark contrasts to reproduce the incidence of light and volume. Lines can take an infinite number of forms. For instance, the engraver Claude Mellan poured intense concentration into the one continuous line he used to draw the face of Jesus Christ on a copper plate. This masterful example of the use of lines is one of the works presented in this exhibition. By contrast, other artists have used freely and rapidly drawn lines to suggest movement or even temperament. All of the works in the exhibition are part of the collection housed in the Rijksmuseum Print Room.

Huigen Leeflang, Curator of Prints at the Rijksmuseum: “Rembrandt is the absolute master of the expressive line. His ability to use only a few lines to capture a facial expression or body language remains unparalleled.”