Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum unveiled Wednesday the first ever exhibition of all of its Rembrandt paintings, marking the 350th anniversary of the death of the prolific painter it dubs the “first Instagrammer”.
The landmark exhibition featuring nearly 400 paintings, drawings and sketches aims to show how the Golden Age master’s compulsive self-portraits and renderings of the world around him prefigure our modern world.
“Rembrandt was the first artist in history – the first ‘Instagrammer’ one could even say – to really capture the world around him,” Rijksmuseum director Taco Dibbits told AFP.
“No artist made as many self-portraits as Rembrandt. He painted his family, he drew his friends, he went out into the streets, the countryside, and he even let us enter his own bedroom to where his sick wife was stretched out.”
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The exhibition will be a final chance to glimpse his masterpiece The Night Watch before the huge tableau is obscured by months of restoration work from July. But it is also a rare opportunity to see lesser works by Rembrandt Van Rijn (1606-1669).
“For the first time in history, the Rijksmuseum is showing every Rembrandt that we own: 22 paintings, 300 sketches, 60 drawings,” said Dibbits.
Many of those are normally kept from the public because they are so fragile three centuries after their creation.
“Light makes the drawings fade, so we almost never show them. An exhibition like this only happens once in a generation.”
Many visitors will simply relish the chance to admire the museum’s entire Rembrandt collection including the self-portraits which follow him from fresh-faced man-about-town to dimly-lit, grizzled artist struggling with age and money problems.
But curators also hope the extensive collection will make them reflect on the social media-obsessed age.
“If I use words like ‘selfie’ and ‘Instagram’, it’s because Rembrandt fashioned the way we look at the world and the way we take photographs,” the director of the museum added.
“Without Rembrandt, we would still be painting or trying to paint pictures of gods and goddesses and scenes from antiquity. What he did was to make these extraordinary stories ordinary – and make our ordinary lives extraordinary.”
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