Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Rembrandt in America

We interrupt our regularly-scheduled blogging for this emergency message:


My son and I took a break from our feverish writing to attend a tour arranged by one of our fellow homeschoolers (her son is doing NaNoWriMo as well) to see the new exhibit at the North Carolina Museum of Art entitled Rembrandt in America.  And boy, was it worth it!

This exhibit is the largest collection of Rembrandt and Rembrandt-esque paintings that has ever been displayed in America.  It contains authentic Rembrandt paintings, give or take.  I say that because a major theme of the exhibit is the fact that it is hard to establish exactly which Rembrandt paintings were, indeed, painted by Rembrandt, and which were done with other people, or by his trained painters in his studio, or his friends or colleagues outside the studio, or other painters at the time that copied his style (and, apparently, on occasion, his signature).

At one point, art historians believed that there were over 700 Rembrandt paintings still in existence.  However, with the advent of Xray and other technology that allows us to analyze the paintings, experts have dropped the number of true, original Rembrandts down to close to 250.  But this is an evolving situation; our tour guide told us that just TODAY, one of the paintings that had been classified as a Rembrandt-studio painting had been declared by the experts to be an actual Rembrandt.  How exciting!

Another major theme of the exhibit, and certainly of the tour we took, was what was distinctive about Rembrandt's paintings, and how to recognize a true Rembrandt from a Rembrandt copier.  Our tour guide did an excellent job of explaining that to our group, which was made up of middle and high school students.  At one point, she took us into a room with about eight paintings, of which she said only two were actually true Rembrandts, and challenged us to pick out the authentic ones.  But my son and I were able to do it.  It's not that hard--once you know his specific characteristics.  But it is particularly evident when you can see the actual paintings side-by-side.  I've been looking back at some pictures, and it is not as easy to see through photographs as it is with your own two eyes.

Now I will admit, Rembrandt is not my favorite style of painting.  But I really enjoyed seeing the exhibit, and I learned to appreciate his work more than I ever have.  If you are anywhere in the area, I recommend going and bringing your high schooler(s) with you.  And if you can arrange it, go with a tour.  The docents really know how to gear the tour to which ever age group (we've been doing this every since he was little), and it adds so much to seeing the exhibit.

But even without a tour, it is worth the time and money to come see it.

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