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Don't pass up chance to see 'Rembrandt in America'

Posted January 6, 2012
Updated January 10, 2012

How dark and dreary Rembrandt van Rijn’s world must have been.

Long before electricity, lighting his canvas only by candlelight, the Dutch painter masterfully captured the nuance of human expression in portraits that were mimicked by painters for years after his time.

I walked into the North Carolina Museum of Art completely unfamiliar with Rembrandt and walked out humbled at having had the opportunity to set eyes on these true works of art. The “Rembrandt in America” exhibit, the largest collection of his paintings ever on display in the United States, gives the visitor unique insight into the vision of a truly great artist, who can capture with his brush a subtle play of light flickering on the face of a man half cast in shadow.

His subjects, however sad and solemn, are so life-like and beautifully lit that the paintings almost seem to be of the modern era – a great 21st century photographer’s take on the Middle Ages. Knowing that Rembrandt, in fact, was painting from about the 1620s to the 1660s, before the camera was invented or even conceived of, before the portrait studio was wired for expensive lights, firmly cements his deserved place among artists who have successfully cast reality to canvas.

He intuitively gives us light and shadow, the divine and the mortal, in images that are breathtaking and inspired. He does not shy away from what’s ugly or old or withered. His portraits, like the subjects they portray, are natural and raw.

The exhibit does an excellent job of presenting the progression of his style – from precise and controlled as a young man to the wilder, broader brush strokes he used as he grew older -- as well as the dispute surrounding some of his famous works, which are now being attributed to a handful of his contemporaries and students.

One of Rembrandt’s favorite subjects was himself, whom he renders as ordinary, even plain, grappling with the same struggles as any man, without any suggestion of the social esteem he enjoyed.

To see these images in art history books does not do them justice. They were made to be real, to be felt, to be human. To stand two feet in front of them, regardless of your art IQ, is an experience not to be missed.

The exhibit runs through Jan. 22 at the North Carolina Museum of Art, 2110 Blue Ridge Road, in Raleigh. While you're there, mosey around Durham native Beverly McIver's colorful examinations of race, identity and family in the museum's North Carolina Gallery, which is free. "Rembrandt in America" costs $18.

12 Comments

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  • CB123 Jan 20, 10:26 a.m.

    Wikipedia is the best thing ever. Anyone in the world can write anything they want about any subject, so you know you are getting the best possible information.

  • Lightfoot3 Jan 20, 8:47 a.m.

    "There were a lot of "might be Rembrandt's" and "not Rembrandt's, but were once thought to be"" - timbo10.0


    Is it at least 90 to 95 percent authentic Rembrandts? I don't want to waste my money to see non-Rembrandt paintings at a Rembrandt exhibit.

  • timbo10.0 Jan 18, 1:31 p.m.

    I felt the collection was not as good as it could of been. There were a lot of "might be Rembrandt's" and "not Rembrandt's, but were once thought to be" for my taste.

    I was at the Rembrandthuis in Amsterdam in November and it was extraordinary.

    Maybe I was spoiled and I need to remember this is Raleigh..

  • PokeyGirl Jan 17, 7:15 p.m.

    Heftybag228, you misunderstand - the ticket time designates only the entrance time into the exhibit. Once you're inside, you may stay as long as you like, up until the museum closes if you want. That's why they are called TIMED ENTRY tickets. It's to control the flow of traffic into the exhibit, that's all. :)

  • brittanyseagroves Jan 12, 12:53 p.m.

    heftybag228, when we went they let us have all the time we wanted and the museum was the busiest I've ever seen it. Maybe the person you spoke to was misinformed? Sorry you got rushed

  • heftybag228 Jan 10, 5:19 p.m.

    What a pity visitors only get 30 minutes to view the Rembrandt collection. That's so American -- rush right through and hardly remember what you see. I'm glad you appreciated your visit, Bridget. I've seen many Rembrandt Exhibitions many times, plus I've visited the Rembrandt House in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. I gave the NC Museum a miss on this collection. 30 minute blocks to view the exhibition -- who are they kidding!!

  • PokeyGirl Jan 10, 6:42 a.m.

    I'm an employee at the museum. The Beverly McIver exhibit is a traveling exhibit and is not in the permanent collection. Boththe Rembrandt and the McIver exhibits are in the East Building (the older, original building) which houses special exhibitions. The permanent collection is in the new, West Building. Tickets for the Rembrandt exhibit are $18 for adults, $15 for students and seniors, $12 for ages 7-12, and children age 6 and under are free.

  • davidgnews Jan 7, 11:58 a.m.

    It should be noted that there is a mix of paintings in this exhibit that weren't actually done by Rembrandt, but by others
    who 'painted in his style' at the time or actually finished a previously unfinished piece.

  • teleman60 Jan 7, 10:19 a.m.

    Phil -- Miss Whelan was talking about a film camera I'm sure. The camera obscura actually refers to the lens mounted in a box that allowed artists to see and copy an image by hand in real time.
    But thanks for the da Vince and Vermeer references...

  • lharward Jan 7, 1:09 a.m.

    A wonderful exhibit!!!! Don't miss it!!!

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