: Toward a Concrete Utopia: Architecture in Yugoslavia, 1948–1980
Rembrandt van Rijn was the premier portrait painter of Amsterdam, and his masterful history paintings drew admiration from aristocratic patrons, but it was his prints that first brought him international acclaim. Imbuing line and tone with technical finesse and ingenuity, Rembrandt crafted resonant images that were prized by connoisseurs and imitated by artists. The contemporary English writer and collector John Evelyn pronounced him “the incomparable [Rembrandt], whose etchings and gravings are of a particular spirit.”
Rembrandt: Prints “of a Particular Spirit” takes an intimate view of Rembrandt’s graphic output during the 1630s, an artistically rich span that corresponds to Rembrandt’s rise from a painter of promise in Leiden to one of the most in-demand portraitists in Amsterdam. Rembrandt’s personal developments and artistic successes were mirrored in his prints. Although his prodigious painting production took up much of his time, he continuously returned to printmaking, finding moments of creative independence in the expressive qualities of etched lines and printed tone. As he refined his technique, he broadened his subject matter to include formal portraits and history and genre scenes. Some of his boldest compositional treatments were subjects that he rarely addressed in paint, but were given exceptional vitality in print, such as his nudes and landscapes, including View of Amsterdam from the Northwest.
Edgar Degas (1834–1917) exhibited just one sculpture during his lifetime: the controversial Little Dancer, Aged Fourteen. This figure startled visitors to the 1881 Impressionist exhibition with its unidealized physiognomy and its radical use of real materials, such as silk slippers and a wig made from human hair. In the privacy of his studio, however, Degas modeled in wax and clay throughout his career, producing hundreds of small-scale, informal studies of horses, dancers and bathers that were seen only by close friends and visitors. It was not until the artist’s death—one hundred years ago this year—that the extent of his sculptural production was revealed. Of the nearly 150 models retrieved from Degas’s studio, 74 of the best-preserved examples were cast in bronze and editioned, making public and permanent these transient exercises in form.
This exhibition explores the improvisational nature of Degas’s artistic practice through the Norton Simon’s collection of modèles, the first and only set of bronzes cast from the original wax and plaster statuettes. This unique set of sculptures served as the matrix for the serial bronzes that followed, and in some cases they preserve objects or evidence of Degas’s handwork that has been altered in the wax originals. Capturing the condition of the figurines when they were discovered in the artist’s studio, the modèles vividly convey the instinctive way in which Degas pressed and smeared pliable wax and plaster over handmade wire armatures, and bulked the core with cork and other easily accessible materials. Rather than serving solely as sources for paintings or pastels, these sculptures were independent objects, what the artist called essais—“trials” or “experiments.” For Degas, the act of sculpting was an end in itself.
Rembrandt’s ‘Self Portrait at the Age of 34’ on loan from The National Gallery, London
Rembrandt van Rijn’s Self Portrait at the Age of 34, a striking painting from The National Gallery, London, makes its U.S. debut this December in the galleries of the Museum. Created in 1640, this imaginative, ambitious and exquisitely painted image corresponds to a high point in the artist’s personal and professional life. Rembrandt established his practice in Amsterdam, the commercial center of Europe, in 1632. Shortly thereafter, he entered into a business relationship with the art dealer Hendrick van Uylenburgh—a significant alliance, given the latter’s interest in arranging portrait commissions. Equally significant was Rembrandt’s marriage to van Uylenburgh’s niece Saskia, in 1634. In a few years’ time, and with the help of her dowry, they moved to a large house on Sint Antoniesbreestraat. By the end of the decade, the vigorous market that already existed for his mythological and religious works was superseded by the demand for his portraits.
The London self-portrait, one of more than 80 produced in various media over the course of his life, is rich with clues about Rembrandt’s industry and far-ranging aesthetic interests. We meet him seated in an arched opening, his torso turned three-quarters to the right, looking out at the spectator with an unflinching gaze. Light falls from the left on a neutral background. His right arm rests on a ledge that extends parallel to the picture plane. Immediately below, and to the right, he signed the painting “Rembrandt f (fecit) 1640.” Dressed in opulent attire, he exudes a magisterial air that underscores his self-presentation as an affluent, confident artist-cum-gentleman. His curly hair, fuzzy blond mustache and slight tuft of beard have been rendered with a meticulous, delicate facture. In comparison, the brushwork broadens and becomes more dynamic in the folds of fabric surrounding his right arm. A warm palette of red and yellow ochres, browns and grays defines the textures of velvet, fur and gold in his elegant clothing.