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Arts & Culture

USD's 'Rembrandt: A Decade Of Brilliance' Allows People To Look Over The Artist's Shoulder

At "Rembrandt: A Decade of Brilliance," you can compare different impressions of print plates to see how the artist experimented with light and shadow.
USD
At "Rembrandt: A Decade of Brilliance," you can compare different impressions of print plates to see how the artist experimented with light and shadow.

Exhibition of prints reveals Dutch artist's restless creativity

'Rembrandt: A Decade of Brilliance' at USD
"USD's 'Rembrandt: A Decade of Brilliance'
KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando visits the USD exhibition, "Rembrandt: A Decade of Brilliance."

ANCHOR INTRO: USD’s Hoehn Family Galleries is currently hosting the exhibit, Rembrandt: A Decade of Brilliance. KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando says it’s an eye-opening showcase of prints from the Dutch painter and printmaker. You don’t often get to look over the should of an artist who’s been dead for centuries but USD’s Rembrandt: A Decade of Brilliance allows you to do just that by showcasing series of prints where you can see Rembrandt playing with light and shadow as he experimented with plates, inks and papers. Erin Sullivan Maynes, the Hoehn Curatorial Fellow for Prints, encourages visitors to take a magnifying glass and get up close to the works. ERIN SULLIVAN MAYNES: Rembrandt is the master of detail. He really encourages you to get up close and to look at what he’s doing, it really teaches you to look and to look in an extended way because we are often encouraged to flip through images quickly and to train your eye to see things that it didn’t see before. (:22) The breathtaking prints are on display at USD’s Founders Hall through May 24th. Beth Accomando, KPBS News.

Companion Viewing

"Rembrandt" (1936 with Charles Laughton as the painter)

"Rembrandt" (1999 with Klaus Maria Brandauer in title role)

"Stealing Rembrandt" (2003)

University of San Diego’s Hoehn Family Galleries is currently hosting the exhibit, "Rembrandt: A Decade of Brilliance, 1648-1658," and it’s an eye-opening showcase of prints from the Dutch painter and printmaker.

You don’t often get to look over the shoulder of an artist who’s been dead for centuries but USD’s "Rembrandt: A Decade of Brilliance" allows you to do just that by showcasing a series of prints where you can see Rembrandt playing with light and shadow as he experimented with plates, inks and papers. Erin Sullivan Maynes, the Hoehn Curatorial Fellow for Prints, encourages visitors to take a magnifying glass and get up close to the works in ways you can never do with a digital reproduction.

"I’m teaching a class right now and I can tell you that you just don’t get the same feeling from a Powerpoint slide, it’s impossible to get people to connect with an image in the same way with a digital reproduction and I can’t articulate exactly why that is," Sullivan Maynes said. "But I can tell you that what I have found with this show is that people will just stop and pause and we have these magnifying glasses that you can take in your hand and hold close to the works because they are so incredibly detailed. Rembrandt is the master of detail, and unexpected details. It’s just amazing what you find. He really encourages you to get up close and to look at what he’s doing. The digital image is wonderful for being able to give you access to something any time you want but what’s so rewarding about this is it really teaches you to look in an extended way because we are often encouraged to flip through images quickly, and this trains you to just take a moment and step back, and get close and then step back again and to look from different angles to really examine and to train your eye to see things that it didn’t see before."

The exhibit, which features 48 prints gathered from San Diego and around the globe, took years to curate and fine tune. It features works from Rembrandt’s last decade as a printmaker, which was not the last decade of his life.

Another example of the different impression of the same print plate on display at USD's "Rembrandt: A Decade in Brilliance."
USD
Another example of the different impression of the same print plate on display at USD's "Rembrandt: A Decade in Brilliance."

"We know that during the end of Rembrandt’s life he was experiencing a lot of turmoil and he went through bankruptcy and he actually lost his press and lost his plates, so he didn’t make any prints at the end of his life, but this decade, the last ten years that he was making prints, they are some of the most productive years as a printmaker and he made his most important prints during this period," Sullivan Maynes said. "It’s also during this period that really encompasses his most experimental periods. He was a self-trained printmaker. During the 17th century you could really only learn printmaking in one of two ways: you could train for years, basically be an apprentice to a master printer or you could experiment and Rembrandt was an experimenter. And he made many prints in his lifetime but his early prints are wildly varying in quality and by the end of his life he had kind of reached the apex of his experimental techniques and he was really playing with the possibilities of print and pushing the boundaries of what print could do and so this show is really interesting and an incredibly unique opportunity to see Rembrandt during his most experimental period in a really unique way, which is you get to see multiple impressions of the same work so that you can see how he changed his works from impression to impression. So you get to see how he was playing with inks and he was playing with the way that you could wipe a plate and the different papers that you could use and how the color of the paper would change the mood of the print. It’s really a chance to, something that Thomas Rassieur, a scholar of Rembrandt’s prints has called, looking over Rembrandt’s shoulder, a way to kind of compare him and see him kind of thinking through his process as a printmaker, from impression to impression."

Erin Sullivan Maynes encourages visitors to the "Rembrandt: A Decade of Brilliance" exhibit to take a magnifying glass and get up close to the work.
USD
Erin Sullivan Maynes encourages visitors to the "Rembrandt: A Decade of Brilliance" exhibit to take a magnifying glass and get up close to the work.

The exhibit reveals him to be what Sullivan Maynes described as "a restlessly creative mind, which is important for all of his artistic practice but it also shows him really fascinated with light and dark."

The breathtaking prints are on display at USD’s Founders Hall through May 24.

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