Lines of art blur between Rembrandt and his pupils
LOS ANGELES (AP) – Before he died 340 years ago, Rembrandt van Rijn lost his house, studio and most of his money. He even sold his wife’s grave to pay bills.
Since then, he’s also been stripped of credit given to him for hundreds of drawings and paintings.
Experts say many works, once believed to be Rembrandt’s, were done by students who would sit at his side, use the same model and come up with similar drawings or paintings.
At one time, Rembrandt was credited with 611 paintings. In the 1930s, scholars said only about half were his. Now comes a study of about a thousand ink drawings once thought to be the Dutch master’s. Between a third and a half of them were done by his students, said Lee Hendrix, senior curator of the J. Paul Getty Museum’s Department of Drawings.
An exhibition based on 30 years of research and called “Drawings by Rembrandt and His Pupils: Telling the Difference” will be on display at the Getty from Dec. 8 to Feb. 28. There will be more than 40 pairings, showing Rembrandt’s drawings next to those by pupils such as Govert Flinck, Ferdinand Bol, Gerbrand van den Eeckhout, Carel Fabritius and Nicolaes Maes.
The display will take place in several rooms and will feature original student-teacher drawings paired side by side. Labels will point out the differences in technique, texture, light and angle, while enlarged photos will focus on the differences.
Few of the drawings are owned by the same museum. So about four years ago, Hendrix and Peter Schatborn, emeritus head of the Rijksprentenkab-inet of the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, started asking for loans around the world.
They asked 33 museums for about 100 drawings – and every one said yes, Hendrix said, calling it unprecedented.
Six drawings from the Getty collection will be part of the show.
“Some exhibitions, you close up the catalog and put in on the shelf. This is taking the work of many scholars over 30 years, putting it all together in one accessible place, clearly presenting it and changing the perspective on a vast body of art,” Hendrix said.
Authenticating a drawing isn’t as easy as turning it over to forensic investigators. There’s no DNA, no fingerprint work, cotton swab tests or test tube chemical that will produce the truth.
“For paintings, there are many scientific instruments that help. For drawings, there aren’t,” Hendrix said. Ink is just fireplace soot, an organic substance.
So the scholars had to use visual characteristics to identify a core group they knew belonged to Rembrandt or Flinck or van den Eeckhout and work from there. Tedious stuff and the job is far from finished, Hendrix said.
They started with a six-volume catalog of over 1,000 drawings attributed to Rembrandt and put together by Otto Benesch in the mid-1950s.
The Getty is the only place the exhibit will be shown.
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