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Rembrandt: The Late Works - National Gallery

Exhibition preview

THIS autumn, the National Gallery is presenting a once-in-a-lifetime exhibition, Rembrandt: The Late Works. The first ever in-depth exploration of Rembrandt’s final years of painting, it will be on display in the Sainsbury Wing from October 15, 2014 to January 18, 2015.

Far from diminishing as he aged, Rembrandt’s creativity gathered new energy in the closing years of his life. It is the art of these late years – soulful, honest and deeply moving – that indelibly defines our image of Rembrandt the man and the artist.

This landmark exhibition, featuring unprecedented loans from around the world, is a unique opportunity to experience the passion, emotion and innovation of Rembrandt, the greatest master of the Dutch Golden Age.

Betsy Wieseman, Curator of Rembrandt: The Late Works, says: “Even three-and-a-half centuries after his death, Rembrandt continues to astonish and amaze. His technical inventions, and his profound insight into human emotions, are as fresh and relevant today as they were in the 17th century.”

From the 1650s until his death, Rembrandt (1606-1669) consciously searched for a new style that was even more expressive and profound. He freely manipulated printing and painting techniques in order to give traditional subjects new and original interpretations.

The exhibition illuminates his versatile mastery by dividing paintings, drawings and prints thematically in order to examine the ideas that preoccupied him during these final years: self-scrutiny, experimental technique, the use of light, the observation of everyday life, inspiration from other artists and responses to artistic convention, as well as expressions of intimacy, contemplation, conflict and reconciliation.

Rembrandt: The Late Works features approximately 40 paintings, 20 drawings and 30 prints – each undisputedly by the master himself. Private and institutional lenders have proved exceptionally generous with outstanding loans from collections across the world.

Key works include: The ‘Jewish Bride (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam), An Old Woman Reading (The Buccleuch Collection, Scotland), A Man in Armour (Glasgow Museums: Art Gallery, Kelvingrove), A Young Woman Sleeping (British Museum, London), Juno (Hammer Museum, Los Angeles), Portrait of a Blond Man (National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne), The Suicide of Lucretia (The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minnesota), Bathsheba with King David’s Letter (Musée du Louvre, Paris), Titus at his Desk (Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam), A Portrait of a Lady with a Lap Dog (Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto), Lucretia (National Gallery of Art, Washington DC) and the National Gallery’s own A Woman Bathing in a Stream and Portrait of Frederik Rihel on Horseback.

The exhibition gives visitors new insight into some of Rembrandt’s most iconic works such as, The Sampling Officials of the Amsterdam Drapers’ Guild (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam) better known as The Syndics, revealing his brilliance in combining light and shadow and colour and texture, to give a radical visual impact to a traditional portrait. Numerous examples of Rembrandt’s finest etchings demonstrate his skilful development of printing techniques to achieve unique effects.

A highlight of the exhibition is the juxtaposition of a number self portraits including Self Portrait as the Apostle Paul (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam), Self Portrait with Two Circles (English Heritage, The Iveagh Bequest (Kenwood)), Self Portrait Wearing a Turban (Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, The Hague), and Self Portrait at the Age of 63 (National Gallery).

The latter two, painted in the final years of his life, show Rembrandt’s exceptional honesty in recording his own features as he aged.

In one of the most moving works in the exhibition, the so-called Jewish Bride (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam), Rembrandt depicted a couple’s tender affection for each other with exquisite sensitivity. Upon viewing this painting for the first time in 1885, Vincent van Gogh confessed to a friend that he would gladly give up 10 years of his life to be able to sit in front of the painting for a fortnight with only a crust of dry bread to eat.

He exclaimed in a letter to his brother Theo: ‘‘What an intimate, what an infinitely sympathetic painting.’‘

It is this relentless, unfettered creativity of Rembrandt that influenced countless printmakers, painters and draughtsman in the generations that followed him, and which continues to inspire artists today.

Ben van Beurden, Chief Executive Officer, Royal Dutch Shell plc, the exhibition sponsor says:

“As a global company with strong Anglo-Dutch roots stretching back more than a century, Shell is proud to sponsor this stunning collection of art works from such a celebrated and pioneering Dutch master. This exhibition is a study in innovation, a reminder of what is possible when conventions are challenged and imagination set free.”

NB: Rembrandt: The Late Works will screen in cinemas across the UK from December 2, 2014 and then worldwide in 45 countries from February 17, 2015, filmed exclusively for the big screen in high definition.

There is a 304-page publication to accompany the exhibition – Rembrandt: The Late Works by Jonathan Bikker (Research Curator, Rijksmuseum) and Gregor J.M. Weber (Head of the Department of Fine Arts, Rijksmuseum); with contributions by Erik Hinterding (Curator of Prints, Rijksmuseum), Marjorie E. Wieseman (Curator of Dutch and Flemish Paintings, The National Gallery), Marijn Schapelhouman (Senior Curator of Drawings, Rijksmuseum) and Anna Krekeler (Paintings Restorer, Rijksmuseum). Price: £35.00 hardback. There will also be a French edition.

Tickets: Adult: £18; Senior (60+): £16; Job Seeker/Student/National Art Pass (with proof of status): £9. These ticket prices include a voluntary donation to the National Gallery. Prices excluding voluntary donation are: Adult: £16; Senior (60+): £14; Job Seeker/Student/National Art Pass: £8. Under 12’s – Free with a paying ticket holder. Visitors are advised to book early to avoid disappointment.

Opening Times: Daily from 10am to 6pm (last admission 5.15pm); Fridays from 10am to 9pm (last admission 8.15pm).

National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, London, WC2N 5DN

Website: www.nationalgallery.org.uk/

Making Colour, the first exhibition of its kind in the UK and one that offers visitors an exceptional opportunity to discover the wide-ranging materials used to create colour in paintings and other works of art, is on display at the National Gallery until September 7, 2014.