From the museum website, 6 February 2009
Rembrandt created a unique pictorial autobiography through his self portraits. No artist before him (and few since) has portrayed himself with the same obsessive frequency. Rembrandt painted himself before the mirror on at least forty occasions, etched himself about thirty times, and made a handful of drawn self portraits. New self portraits appeared annually and sometimes several times a year. What is more, these self portraits include some of his most important paintings and etchings, dating from his early years in Leiden in the late 1620s to the year of his death in Amsterdam in 1669.
Rembrandt is the artist above all others whom people feel that they know, yet this sense of familiarity comes not from any single self portrait, but from the powerful accumulation of extraordinary images made throughout his entire career, seen here together for the first time. Each of his self portraits shows a slightly different individual. Although we cannot answer whether or not Rembrandt’s self portraits are accurate likenesses, no one can shake off the feeling that Rembrandt’s personality crystallises when one surveys his self portraits as a group.
Rembrandt by himself
Christopher White and Quentin Buvelot, with contributions by Ernst van de Wetering and Edwin Buijsen
Catalogue of an exhibition held in 1999 in London (National Gallery) and in 1999-2000 in The Hague (Mauritshuis)
The Hague (Royal Cabinet of Paintings Mauritshuis), London (National Gallery Publications) and Zwolle (Waanders) 1999
ISBN 90-400-9315-6 hardbound
ISBN 90-400-9334-2 paperbound
Chief sponsor ING
Thames & Hudson’s sponsorship of this exhibition has won an award under the Arts & Business Pairing Scheme for its support of The National Gallery