Information from the museum, 10 January 2012
From 21 January to 22 April 2012 the Rembrandt House Museum in Amsterdam is exhibiting more than a hundred drawings by seventeenth-century Netherlandish artists from the collection of the Hamburger Kunsthalle. They include exceptional sheets by Rembrandt as well as masterpieces by many of his predecessors and contemporaries. It will be the first time that most of the drawings return to the city—and in some cases to the very house—where they were made. The exhibition offers a unique opportunity to admire the magnificent and extremely fragile works on paper before they are stored away again for a long time.
Some of the drawings in the exhibition have a special relationship to Rembrandt’s graphic oeuvre. Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669) was an etcher as well as a painter and draughtsman. Remarkably few of his drawn preliminary studies have survived, but the Hamburger Kunsthalle has two of them: the preparatory drawings for the print of St Jerome Reading in a Landscape and Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane. Both prints are in the Rembrandt House Museum’s collection and they will be shown in the exhibition alongside their preliminary studies.
Drawing in Rembrandt’s Day
The exhibition is in two parts: sheets by Rembrandt and his school and a wide-ranging selection of drawings by artists from Rembrandt’s time. Landscapes, tree portraits, genre scenes, figure studies, portraits, marines and Amsterdam cityscapes will present visitors with a representative overview of seventeenth-century drawing in the Northern Netherlands. Perhaps the most striking aspects are the outstanding quality of the sheets and the huge diversity of subjects, drawing styles and techniques. Visitors to the exhibition will be able to see the various ways the drawings were used—as preliminary studies for prints or paintings, as sketches that could serve as aides-memoire for other work, as journal-style drawn notes and, of course, as drawings that were intended to be works of art in their own right.
The Hamburger Kunsthalle
The Kunsthalle’s drawing collection is one of the most important in the world. Seventeenth-century Netherlandish artists, including Rembrandt, are particularly well represented with sheets of exceptionally high quality. At the heart of this superb collection is the bequest of the nineteenth-century Hamburg art collector and dealer Georg Ernst Harzen. On his death in 1863 he left fifty-one paintings and some thirty thousand works on paper (including eight hundred Dutch and Flemish drawings) to the museum, which was yet to be founded. The Kunsthalle opened its doors in 1869, six years after he died. The collection was enlarged and supplemented by later purchases and gifts and the collection of Netherlandish drawings dating from between 1450 and 1850 alone presently accounts for almost 1,400 sheets.
Background to the Exhibition
In 2011 the publication of a comprehensive catalogue raisonnée of the Netherlandish drawings in the Hamburger Kunsthalle prompted the staging of three exhibitions of selections from this extensive collection. A large selection of sheets by Dutch and Flemish artists had previously been exhibited at the Fondation Custodia in Paris. In the summer the Hamburger Kunsthalle displayed many works from its own collection. The Rembrandt House Museum will be showing more than a hundred masterpieces from this collection, focusing of course on Rembrandt and the artists in his circle.
The catalogue raisonnée published in Hamburg in early 2011, a three-volume scholarly reference work, which discusses all the drawings in the collection in detail, supported by black-and-white illustrations, is for sale in the museum shop. To mark the exhibition Drawing in Rembrandt’s Day: Masterpieces from the Hamburger Kunsthalle, a special publication with colour illustrations of the hundred-plus masterpieces on display will also be available:
Drawing in Rembrandt’s day: masterpieces from the Hamburger Kunsthalle (Tekenen in Rembrandts tijd: meesterwerken uit de Hamburger Kunsthalle)
Annemarie Stefes, Leonore van Sloten, Leonoor van Oosterzee
128 pp., illustrated, in Dutch and English, paperbound
Amsterdam (Museum Het Rembrandthuis) 2012