‘Once in a lifetime’ exhibition opens in London
Rembrandt: The Late Works, National Gallery, LondonBy Tom Aitken in London
For the next three months until (January 18, 2015) London’s National Gallery is presenting what it justly describes as ‘a once-in-a-lifetime exhibition’ – the first in-depth exploration of Rembrandt’s final years of painting.
What we see, therefore, takes him from age 44 to 63. The paintings, etchings and sketches on view cover the whole of this period, right through to the last six months of his life.
If you are going to be in London during the next three months, you can, as it were, visit all of these places and their treasures by walking through seven rooms in London. Don’t miss the chance !
He did not have a tranquil old age. Extravagance on his part led to his being declared insolvent in 1656. He managed to avoid bankruptcy and imprisonment, but his collections were sold and he took lodgings in the poorer part of Amsterdam.
Further blows to his happiness came with the deaths of his female servant Hendrikje Stoffels, who had borne him two children and his son Titus, the only one of four children born to by his wife Saskia, who had herself died in 1642, to live longer than two months.
Art triumphed despite setbacks
Despite all of these strokes of fate, his art remained unimpaired.
His pictures showed an increased understanding of the ways in which the human face (including his own) expressed a huge range of emotions.
One of the delights of the press showing I attended was watching the American academic, Betsey Wieseman, curator of the exhibition, being interviewed for television by Jeremy Paxman, the former attack-dog presenter of the BBC programme Newsnight, who resigned amidst much furore a few months ago.
He was, I think genuinely, surprised to learn that the show had taken years rather than months to arrange and assemble.
A list of the museums that have agreed to lend the items on view would give you some idea why.
Pictures from galleries around the world
There are pictures here from Paris, Amsterdam, The Hague, British London, Cambridge, Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Stockholm, Minneapolis, Berlin, Oxford, Los Angeles, Florence, Rotterdam, Washington, Melbourne, Toronto, Buccleuch, Budapest Zurich, San Diego, Glasgow, Paris, and Kassel.
As I said, if you are going to be in London during the next three months, you can, as it were, visit all of these places and their treasures by walking through seven rooms in London. Don’t miss the chance (the paintings were completed between 1651 and Rembrandt’s death in 1669).
But the art is the thing. What you see shows Rembrandt’s creativity gathering new energy in his closing years. These pictures, soulful, honest and deeply moving show a man overcoming the blows of fate and the trials of old age.
- Self portraits
- biblical tableaux
- portrayals of life in Rembrandt’s own time…
The range is enormous, the rewards to the viewer even more so.