Rijksmuseum marks the 350th anniversary of Rembrandt’s death in 2019 with ‘Year of Rembrandt’. The year-long celebration opened with ‘All the Rembrandts’ (on view now to June 10), in which the Rijksmuseum presents for the first time an exhibition of all 22 paintings, 60 drawings and more than 300 best examples of Rembrandt’s prints in its collection.
As well as holding the world’s largest collection of Rembrandt paintings – including The Night Watch, the portraits of Marten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit, The Jewish Bride – the Rijksmuseum collection offers the world’s most comprehensive and representative overview of Rembrandt’s painting oeuvre.
Given the extreme rarity that many of these delicate drawings and prints go on display, All the Rembrandts offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to glean an unparalleled perspective on Rembrandt the artist, the human, the storyteller, the innovator.
The recent acquisition of the spectacular marriage portraits of Marten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit means the Rijksmuseum’s collection of Rembrandt paintings is now the largest in the world. With its total of 22 works, from the early Self-Portrait as a Young Man to the later Self-Portrait as the Apostle Paul, the collection forms a coherent overview of his entire life. The highlight of the collection of Rembrandt’s paintings is his greatest masterpiece, The Night Watch.
The comprehensive collection of drawings encompasses all Rembrandt’s periods and styles, and includes numerous exceptional drawings from his early period. The Rijksmuseum will show only the most beautiful and finest of Rembrandt’s 1300 prints. The 17th-century prints are exceedingly fragile and rarely displayed in public.
All the Rembrandts will explore different aspects of Rembrandt’s life and work through a number of themes. The first section presents the milestones of his career as a young artist; when Rembrandt looks at himself in the mirror, the viewer looks over his shoulder. A close examination of Rembrandt’s many self-portraits reveals his growth as an artist of incomparable talent.
The second section of the exhibition focuses on Rembrandt’s surroundings and the people in his life. As a young man Rembrandt honed his craft by painting portraits of his mother, his family and acquaintances. He even made a powerful portrait of his wife Saskia as she lay ill in bed. The artist was also fascinated by the wider world around him: the beggars, the buskers, the vagrants, the actors. He drew and painted countless portraits of the people he encountered.
Rembrandt was a gifted storyteller, and his stories are at the heart of the last section of the exhibition. The Old Testament tales inspired Isaac and Rebecca (the alternative title for The Jewish Bride, c. 1665–1669) and Self-Portrait as the Apostle Paul (1661) in which he gives masterful expression to gestures and emotions that are familiar, tangible and intimate. Early depictions of these tales tend to be delicate and refined; later in life Rembrandt used a coarser experimental technique, applying ingenious colour and light effects to further enhance the narrative and draw out its essence.
In Rembrandt: Biography of a Rebel, curator Jonathan Bikker takes us on a journey past all of the ups and downs of Rembrandt’s life in seventeenth century Leiden and Amsterdam. With humour, insight and compassion, he shows us Rembrandt’s genius and the novelty of his works, and brings the artist back to life – you will not get any closer to Rembrandt than this.