Yesterday I was lucky enough to be invited to the press preview of ‘Rembrandt: The Late Works’ at The National Gallery which opens to the public today.
Each time I visit one of our city’s beautiful museums I never fail to be astounded by the sheer grandeur and rich detail of our galleries. The National Gallery looks out onto the cinematic vista of Trafalgar Square, which as Londoners we are quick to dismiss as a busy tourist trap, but it is a tourist trap with astonishingly good reason as witnessed from the gallery steps.
Inside, intricate floor mosaics and striking palatial architecture is mixed seamlessly with modern details as the galleries expand.
But back to the exhibition. Dutch painter Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn is generally considered one of the greatest painters and printmakers in European art and the most important in Dutch history.
Interested in capturing the world around him without prejudice, his works recorded the ordinary people, places and things he would have seen every day in Amsterdam.
Having already suffered the early loss of his wife and three of their children, Rembrandt’s later years were burdened with bankruptcy, acrimonious legal proceedings with a former lover, and the loss of his common-law wife and only remaining son.
However, far from diminishing as he aged, Rembrandt’s creativity gathered new energy. The once-in-a-lifetime exhibition explores Rembrandt’s final years of painting when he achieved ultimate greatness.
Quietly breathtaking, the exhibition comprises of approximately 40 paintings, 20 drawings and 30 prints, revelling in Rembrandt’s iconic use of combined light and shadow.
From the moment you step into the hush of the first room filled with luminous self-portraits chronicling the last decade of Rembrandt’s life – and his exceptional honesty in recording his own features as he aged – you are ensnared [it is worth visiting for just this room].
Drawn further and further into his expressions of intimacy, contemplation, conflict and reconciliation, I felt as though I was gazing upon familiar friends as I sat mesmerised by the tender depictions of the ‘Old Woman Reading a Book’ and ‘A Woman Bathing in a Stream’ and even ‘The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Joan Deyman’ and I am itching to go back and sit with them again.
My photographs do none of the great artist’s luminous, multilayered and expressive masterpieces any justice so please go visit and gaze upon their spine-tingling beauty for yourselves.
Rembrandt, The Late Works
The National Gallery
15 October 2014 – 18 January 2015