THE HAUNTED STUDIO: REMBRANDT|
Homage to RVR
Whatever he means to the young today, to my generation of
artists, figurative or abstract, Big Dutch (my nickname for my pal Rembrandt
Van Rijn) was a monument, an icon, what the French
call a "monstre sacré." One would need a heart of stone not to be moved
by his portraits, with their haunting ability to hint at the depths of the human
soul . His forty or so self-portraits in oil (many more in drawing and etching)
are unique in the history of art - challenged only by his fellow Dutchman, Van
Gogh, who couldn't afford to pay for models.
Rembrandt played a role in inspiring
me to become an artist, and my father, intent on dissuading me from that course,
said , "It's OK to be an artist, if you can paint like Rembrandt." In
recent years, I seem to have taken him literally - my first step toward taking
art history as a subject was to place one of his self-portraits in the middle
of an abandoned abstraction.
I'm not foolish enough to aspire to paint like Rembrandt,
but I apparently like to paint Rembrandt, and his wonderful, homely mug — its
weary traces of time and age through the years have been a friendly companion
to my own aging. Whenever he finished painting himself he would instruct students
in his workshop to copy his portrait, a teaching technique that helped to propagate
his style widely for many years. Reproductions in a book called, "Rembrandt
By Himself", based on a London exhibition of a few years ago, helped me
offer this humble tribute on his 400th anniversary.