Monday, January 11, 2010

Rembrandt in Reno

by Stephen Cummings

Hey Renoites. If you have any free time during the next six days, do yourself a favor and use it to go see Rembrandt.

Too often when a small museum boasts a big name, it's little more than a ploy to get people through the door. You might glimpse a meager few works by the artist you came to see, and be stuck with a glut of additional hangers on, or else the examples on display may be just . . . less than noteworthy. Not so with this show. As you may or may not know, Rembrandt van Rijn is widely considered to be one of the greatest printmakers of all time, and since November, the Nevada Museum of Art has featured a very healthy collection of etchings, drypoints, and engravings by the Dutch master, drawn from the collection at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. (I didn't count myself, but they say there are 130!)

In other words, this is good stuff, and I'm convinced there's something in this show for everyone. (The only failing really is that "loosely" recreated studio setup — what the hell? — fortunately you can just ignore it.) Obviously, if you are at all interested in printmaking, you can't miss such a feast, and even if you have no particular interest in the medium, a simple respect for art will ensure your appreciation. For Renaissance type tastes there are portraits and tableaux to spare, including a great many Biblical scenes to sate the devout. If your inclinations are more formal, you might find interest in the landscapes, where, freed from the demands of an established narrative, the artist was able to more fully investigate abstract arrangements. (Although he wasn't exactly shy about moving things around in the other work.) And if you don't get art at all, this could be a fine introduction. Many prints are shown in two or more states, so it's possible to see how the process moved, how decisions were made to alter psychology, or narrative, or composition. The work ranges in complexity from loose and gestural to ornately composed, and in imagery from beggars to windmills to barely intelligible darkness. Whatever your visual proclivities, I should hope you'll find something gratifying in this show.

As is usual, there's nothing like seeing this work in person. I'm sitting here right now with four catalogs of Rembrandt's etchings laid out in front of me, and none of them hold a candle to what I was looking at a couple of weeks ago. What you have down there is a treat, so take advantage before it's too late.

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