Rembrandt and His School: Masterworks from the Frick and
February 15, 2011, through May 15, 2011
Partial Show Extension: Works on loan from the Lugt Collection will remain on view in the Lower-Level Exhibition Galleries through May 22. See a Virtual Tour of the paintings in the Oval Room.
Henry Clay Frick's Collection of Rembrandt Prints | Related Works
Rembrandt van Rijn (1606–1669) was as extraordinary a printmaker as he was a painter and draftsman. He created
more than three hundred print compositions in his lifetime, among them formal portraits, landscapes, history subjects, studio scenes, and individual figure studies. As he did in other media, he found unique ways to manipulate the techniques of etching and drypoint to achieve an enormous range of expressive and atmospheric effects. Whether spare and luminous or rich and sonorous, his prints demonstrate his spectacular ability to render through line form, texture, light, and both the subtleties and the extremes of human emotion.
The ten prints by Rembrandt are part of the collection of some fifty works on paper from the early sixteenth to the late nineteenth century assembled by Henry Clay Frick between 1913 and his death in 1919 and bequeathed to the museum along with his rich holdings of paintings, sculpture, and decorative art. Rembrandt's long-admired prints, which had been catalogued as early as the eighteenth century and revered by nineteenth-century
printmakers, enjoyed high profiles in Gilded Age collections, as they had in Rembrandt's lifetime. The superb impressions Frick purchased — always framed and ready for display — served as splendid decorations for his home and as prestigious acquisitions for his future museum.
This ensemble includes some of Rembrandt's most famous compositions, among them the Hundred Guilder Print, so named for the unusually high price it garnered in the seventeenth century. Although rare among the paintings Frick acquired, religious scenes are well represented here, along with portraits and landscapes — the genres the collector generally preferred. These works range from quiet views of the Dutch countryside to dramatic depictions of Christ's Passion. Common to all is the vivid rendering of light — whether natural or spiritual — achieved through the expert juxtaposition of dense hatching and untouched areas of the printing plate.
In drawing an image onto a copper plate, scratching through a waxy coating with his etching needle or directly into the copper with a drypoint needle, Rembrandt laid out his compositions as assuredly as he did with pen on paper and worked them up through a variety of means. He modeled form and rendered texture by massing lines and controlling how much ink they would hold (and thus how thickly they would print) by varying the amount of time he exposed his plate to acid — the process by which an image is etched into the copper. For some impressions he deliberately left passages of ink on the plate, which, when transferred to paper, read as areas of deep shadow. His will to experiment extended to the changes he made to his plates after rounds of printing, which sometimes involved
the dramatic transformation of a composition from one state of a print to the next. This mastery of the art form has earned Rembrandt a place of high esteem among print collectors from the seventeenth century to the present day.