Anna Kozak and Joanna Tomicka, prints and drawings
Antoni Ziemba, paintings
Taking part in the Rembrandt’s 400th birthday anniversary which is being celebrated all around the world, the National Museum in Warsaw is organizing an exhibition of the artist’s prints and drawings from public collections in Poland.
Prints and drawings by Rembrandt can be found in National Museums in Gdansk, Krakow, Poznan and Warsaw, in the University Library in Warsaw, in The Princes Czartoryski Foundation in Krakow, in the Jagiellonian Library and Polish Academy of Art and Sciences Library in Krakow, in Ossolinski National Institute and in the Museum of Count Lubomirski in Wroclaw, in the Art Museum in Lodz. Most of them were presented 50 years ago, also on the occasion of the artist’s birthday anniversary and also in the National Museum in Warsaw. The research works on Rembrandt’s art have developed considerably since then, allowing the verification of his works in our collections. It became possible because our initiative has been supported by all institutions, which posses Rembrandt’s works.
In the case of Rembrandt’s drawings, the characteristics of our collections is inseparably connected with the issue of the artist’s school (unlike in the case of the prints, very few of his drawings are signed). Here the question of authenticity has been transferred from the sphere of chronology to the subject of attribution, distinguishing between Rembrandt’s own drawings and those of his pupils and followers. This problem, which is connected to the artist’s pedagogic activity and the issue of the influence of his art on his contemporary and later artists, concerns to the greater or lesser degree, Rembrandt’s drawing collections all over the world. In our case we, unfortunately, deal with the second option. From among 30 drawings still attributed to the artist at the time of the 1956 exhibition, only 16 remained classified as Rembrandt’s works, but several of them are uncertain. Although such selection was made gradually during the period between the previous and the present exhibitions, it needed an explanation. That was the reason why we have decided to present the works from the artist’s circle, attributed to him 50 years ago, alongside his own ones. Despite the fact that the exhibited complex is not large, it gives the notion of Rembrandt’s mastery as a draughtsman. It includes very good examples of genre and figure studies and landscapes, which are ones of his most outstanding achievements. The class of the landscapes has been confirmed by their presence on international exhibitions.
As far as prints are concerned, thanks to currently available methods, i.e. studying papers and their watermarks, late impressions were excluded. In the selected group one can find about 170 prints presented at the exhibition (in total nearly 300 prints including impressions of the same composition and various states of some of them; prints not exhibited are described in the catalogue). As Rembrandt was one of those artists who fascinated both artists and spectators, one can find numerous late impressions made from his preserved plates, non – Rembrandt states, as well as numerous copies or imitations. We worked on principle of not crossing the border of the turn of the 17th century, presenting in our project the earliest impressions and at the same time the most representative for participating collections. The exhibition gave as well the chance to make available to the public some new acquisitions.
Polish collections of Rembrandt’s prints show most of the aspects of Rembrandt’s creativity in printmaking, presenting artist’s development from his earliest works to his masterpieces (e.g. Three Crosses, IV state), his wide range of interests (Old and New Testament, genres, studies of figures, landscapes, self-portraits), technical experiments and explorations.
The prints and drawings exhibition is accompanied by a display of paintings from the collection of the National Museum and the Museum – Palace at Wilanów which illustrates the phenomenon of the Master’s art in a broader context: “Around Rembrandt. Lastman, Lievens, Fabritius, Flinck and others.” A selection of 28 paintings is divided into 4 parts:
I. “Rembrandt’s Masters” presenting works by Pieter Lastman d other so called “Prerembrandtists” as well as Utrecht caravaggesque painters, the latter trough the intermediary of Rembrandt’s colleague and collaborator Jan Lievens, who was the first of the two to experiment with the caravaggesque idiom.
II. “Rembrandt’s Pupils” with paintings by Ferdinand Bol, Gerrit Dou, Carel Fabritus, Gerbrand van den Eeckhout, Govaert Flinck and others, grouped in three sections – “Tronies”, Histories and Portraits. This part makes a core of the whole exhibition and elucidates well the routine and variety of the Master’s workshop practice. The highlights here are two very important paintings which recently underwent technological examinations and conservation treatment: the famous “Raising of Lazarus” by Carel Fabritius and a new National Museum’s acquisition – “Portrait of a Man in the Landscape” by Govaert Flinck, here presented and published for the first time.
III. “Maniére rembrandtesque” – Followers outside Rembrandt’s workshop” with examples of Benjamin Gerritsz. Cuyp, and Jacob Willemsz. de Wet’s works.
IV. “Rembrandt’s Reception outside Holland” illustrating the long-lived influence of the Master in Europe (returning in the 18th century with the fashion of the picturesque) on examples of works by Michael L. L. Willmann, a follower of Franz A. Maulbertsch, Balthasar Denner, Alexis Grimou and Jean-Pierre Norblin.