As part of the celebrations for the 10th anniversary of BYU’s Center for the Study of Europe, the MOA is displaying a selection of prints by the Dutch master, Rembrandt van Rijn. The new exhibition, Rembrandt’s Amsterdam, is on display now until April 2013.
In connection with the exhibition, the museum is hosting an evening of Dutch culture entitled Amsterdam Old and New on Monday, April 1 from 5 to 7:30 p.m. At the event, visiting musicians from Amsterdam will perform music from their recent collaboration with BYU faculty composer Steve Ricks. BYU art history professor Martha Peacock, who curated the exhibition, will also speak about Rembrandt and his printmaking.
“The evening should give students a better view of Amsterdam in historical and contemporary perspectives,” Peacock said.
Rembrandt was one of the most successful painters in Amsterdam’s 17th-century Golden Age. During that time, Amsterdam’s position as the wealthiest city in the world attracted merchants and grew the middle class. High literacy rates made Amsterdam flourish culturally and economically, creating a new art market with high demand.
“Artists began to specialize in certain areas and sold smaller works for the Dutch home. Prints in particular were a cheap way of creating art that was affordable to everyone in the middle class,” Peacock said.
The influx of middle-class buyers also changed the nature of the art being made. Artists’ work began to reflect the values of their new patrons by focusing on everyday subjects and landscapes rather than on the mythological scenes favored by the upper class.
“They were painting for a different kind of person in the 17th-century Dutch republic,” Peacock continued. “They were painting genre scenes, or scenes of daily life, and other kinds of subject matters that are now appealing to the Dutch middle-class. They weren’t painting Italian mythological scenes, but everyday here and now depictions.”
“Rembrandt always painted people just as common people,” said Dawn Pheysey, Curator of Religious Art. “He didn’t idealize his figures. They often weren’t very beautiful, but they were human. He was never condemning of people or their plights in life resulting from poor choices. He was always sympathetic to people and their circumstances.”
These traits can be seen in his etching, Peasant Family on the Tramp, one of the prints included in the MOA exhibition.
The exhibition has been made possible by a generous donation of etchings from the Malouf Family of Texas. It was their collection of works that initiated the idea of the exhibition. Pieces also come from the museum’s collection.
Image Credit: Rembrandt (1606-1669) Landscape With A Cow Drinking (II/II), c.1650,etching and drypoint, 4 1/16 x 5 1/8 inches. Brigham Young University Museum of Art, purchase/gift from Mahonri M. Young Estate.
(featured image) Rembrandt (1606-1669), The Virgin and Child with the Cat and Snake (II/II), 1654, etching and burin, 3 15/16 x 5 13/16 inches. Brigham Young University Museum of Art, purchase/gift from Mahonri M. Young Estate.