CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

Rembrandt’s etchings: the embrace of darkness and light

Exhibition: 8 September - 9 December 2007

Rembrandt van Rijn, Self portrait leaning on a stone sill. Boston, Museum of Fine Arts

Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-69)
Self portrait leaning in a stone sill, 1639
Boston, Museum of Fine Arts

From the museum website

Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn (1606-1669), a 17th century Dutch artist, is famed for the remarkable expression of light and darkness in his oil paintings. In addition, he left about 300 copperplate prints, and was a representative great master of etching in Europe.

In those days, long before the photographic and printing techniques of today, copperplate printing was mainly regarded as a method of mass-producing copies of oil paintings. The technique of etching in particular was developing, and artistry in the medium was almost unknown. However, in his etchings Rembrandt succeeded in expressing subtle changes in light and shade, as well as delicate textures, by various means. As a result, the medium of etching immediately became highly expressive.

Artists in those days painted in oils mostly to fill orders from their clients, but when printing they selected the subjects and freely expressed their own aims. We can therefore perceive the artistic intentions of Rembrandt more in his prints than in any other of his works. For Rembrandt, etching became as important a method of expression as painting. Moreover, it was his printing that first brought him renown as artist.

This exhibition introduces the world of Rembrandt’s printing in 131 works, which include his 117 prints and one engraved copperplate, as well as 13 works by Mantegna and Dürer, who were said to have been inspirations for Rembrandt’s artistry.

The Nagoya/Boston Museum of Fine Arts, as the sister museum of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), breaks new ground in Japan by presenting art in innovative and refreshing ways. The manifold works on exhibition are selected from one of the world’s finest collections. They are displayed thematically to enhance the visitor’s aesthetic experience and to stimulate contemplation of relationships between the works. The partnership between the Nagoya/Boston Museum of Fine Arts and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston enables people in Japan not only to enjoy great masterpieces, but also to appreciate art from cultures and periods that until now has had little exposure in Japan.