Information from the curator, 3 October 2014
Although South African public collections have no paintings attributable to Rembrandt, there are some fine collections of his etchings. This new exhibition draws on the major institutional collections within South Africa, including the Michaelis Collection (Cape Town), the Iziko SA National Gallery (Cape Town), the Johannesburg Art Gallery, the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum (Port Elizabeth), the Rupert Art Foundation, the Rembrandt van Rijn Art Foundation (Stellenbosch) and UCT. The impressive collection of the Johannesburg Art Gallery, presented by Howard Pim, has previously never been shown in Cape Town before.
One of the benefits of bringing these collections together is that Rembrandt’s working methods will be revealed in relation to actual etchings seen in their different states and in impressions made from his original etching plates at different times. The questions posed by the many followers and imitators of Rembrandt is well-known in relation to his paintings, but the similar questions surround his etchings as well, especially as a result of the rise in popularity of his prints with museums and collectors in the 19th century.
While the quest and desire for a genuine Rembrandt painting for a South African public art museum was elusive, the stories surrounding this issue are fascinating. This is dealt with buy the inclusion of paintings from the ‘School of Rembrandt’ drawn from the Michaelis Collection. These paintings have recently undergone conservation treatments. The methods of Rembrandt’s etching (intaglio) process will be demonstrated in a special display.
The exhibition will have a strong educational component, drawing in students and scholars from schools and tertiary teaching institutions in Cape Town via UCT, the Frank Joubert Art Centre and the Ibhabhathane Project. Rembrandt in South Africa is the largest-ever exhibition of the great Dutch artist’s works in this medium ever brought together for a single exhibition in this country.
This exhibition is being mounted to mark and celebrate the centenary of the Michaelis Collection of Dutch and Flemish paintings, which was presented to the people of South Africa in 1914.
It has been generously funded by Iziko Museums of South Africa; Remgro Limited; The Centre for Curating the Archive at UCT; the Friends of the Michaelis Collection and the Van Ewijck Foundation.