Thursday, September 13, 2007

Rembrandt in Portland, OR

I visited Portland Museum of Art to see the Rembrandt and the Golden Age of Dutch Art exhibit. The work is on tour from Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum while that museum is being renovated. It was wonderful to see the Rembrandts in person, I love to stare at his brush strokes and try to fathom how he builds up from transparent darkness to his signature clotted, swirly lights.

As for the other Dutch Masters, I was especially entranced by this Still Life by Jan van de Velde, which surprised me. The reproduction does not do it justice at all, but the painting was just captivating in person. Even standing within inches from the canvas, the illusion of the glass objects emerging from the dark background is never broken. More than just stunning hyper-realism, this painting has a magical, captivating feeling.

(An interesting footnote - smoking was considered a sin, but the wealthy, pious Dutch liked to hang images of the vices they rejected, as a way to display their own righteousness. Which is why so many Dutch still lifes feature pipes and smoking paraphernalia. I wonder, would that be the equivalent of our own most wealthy and pious members of society displaying images of illegal drug paraphernalia?)

At the museum store I bought a fascinating book: Art in the Making: Rembrandt which has gorgeous close-ups of Rembrandt's brush strokes, as well as magnified cross-sections of the paint layers, and analysis of what pigments he used and how he used them. Very fun to find such a technical book.

While in Portland I visited my college friend, painter Scott Conary, whom I had not seen in person in 14 years. He and his wife were kind enough to put me up for the night, and we drank wine and talked art for hours. We had some good discussions, because he does not understand my fascination with classical realism, but at least he liked what I showed him of Michael Grimaldi so we found some common ground :)