Monday, July 17, 2006


I usually try to limit myself to updating this blog once a week. However, I could not let the 400th birthday of Rembrandt-- one of my favorite illustrators of all time-- go by without a gesture of respect.

Rembrandt illustrated stories from the Bible, Faust and other sources. Just like today's illustrators, he designed pictures for reproduction and popular consumption (using etchings, the most advanced technology of the day). Like today's illustrators, he was often frustrated by his tasteless and unreasonable clients. (At the height of the "tulip craze" in Amsterdam, a single tulip bulb sold for three times as much as Rembrandt's masterpiece, The Nightwatch.) And just like today's illustrators, he died broke.

But 400 years later, all the money squabbles and heartbreak and exasperation have faded into background noise, along with the names of all the investment bankers and merchants who were once such big shots in Amsterdam. All that's left is the sublime poetry of Rembrandt's pictures.


Painter X said...

For a long time, i couldn't understand the fascination with Rembrandt. I had seen his famous self-portraits, but I always thought that other painters were much better, like Vermeer, Hals, Velasquez, Sargent, etc.

All this changed after I attended an exhibit of his etchings at the Art Institute of Chicago a couple of years ago. Going from piece to piece, seeing the fine detail of his work, as well as the overwhelming humanity, and his ability to capture that in his pictures, I left feeling elevated and awestruck. Then I understood.

That's why its also so important for painters keep seeking to express their own vision, in spite of all the distractions. Just another piece of what makes life worth living, that Rembrandt. Another good post. Keep it up David!

David Apatoff said...

I agree with you painter X. For a long time, Rembrandt was more famous for his etchings than he was for his paintings. The etchings (and the drawings) are truly extraordinary when you see them in person. I decided to sneak in a second posting with another Rembrandt etching just because I couldn't bear to let go of the subject so quickly.

It has been a long time since I have been to the Art Institute but it is one of my favorite museums.

Randolino said...


Thanks for the Rembrandt birthday alert, and for pointing us to his special brand of "sublime poetry" which resonates witnin his etchings.