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Changing Impressions Leave Lasting Impressions

Published on
December 4

Rembrandt’s prints always beckon me back into exploring the power of line and darkness. Though not a printmaker myself, as a painter I can appreciate a quality treatment of light and density. While I made my way through Wallach Gallery examining each series of prints, offering both soft and distinct changes, I couldn’t help but feel nostalgic, as if I were playing a game of picture hunt between the sets of images. Rembrandt is a master of subtle shifts: a hat added here and there, figures now emerged from a once blackened wall. This exhibition showcases his exploration of aesthetic possibility.

Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669) a pioneer printmaker, was one of the first artists to tentatively treat printmaking with a sense of scientific discovery. Not only was his compositional craft fluid, his curiosity to investigate unfamiliar materials made him the first printmaker of his time to work with and investigate newly-imported papers from Asia. The difference in paper leads to a shift in mood that is uncanny. When comparing his 1655 drypoints, Christ Presented to the People: Oblong Plate, I observed that the image printed on Japanese paper (fig. 2) was a warmer tone than version on European paper (fig. 1). The Japanese paper allowed the ink to thicken more, creating a harsher line quality.


Fig. 1
Christ Presented to the People                                      
Rembrandt (Rembrandt van Rijn) (Dutch, 1606–1669)
Drypoint; eighth (final) state; 13 3/4 x 17 15/16 in. (34.9 x 45.6 cm)
Gift of Felix M. Warburg and his family, 1941 (41.1.36)​

Fig. 2
Christ Presented to the People
Rembrandt (Rembrandt van Rijn) (Dutch, 1606–1669)
Drypoint; second state of eight
Gift of Felix M. Warburg and his family, 1941 (41.1.34)

After time spent contemplating which image I preferred more, the verdict was a deadlock. One etching did not surpass the other. Both seemingly had different but enjoyable qualities. I often found myself in the same stalemate with many of his prints. Not one overcame the others; all equally highlighted different yet profound aesthetic moments of success.

I highly recommend this exhibit to anyone that appreciates the patience of looking. The Wallach Gallery presents a quiet sanctuary of Rembrandt’s most profound works. On view until December 12, Rembrandt's Changing Impressions uncovers a quality in his prints that often gets lost in reproductions.


Figs 1 & 2: Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art