‘All the Rembrandts’ sounds like an overzealous demand from a museum curator eager to get their hands on works by the great Dutch Master. However, it’s the title of the Rijksmuseum’s newest exhibition doing just that: showing all the Rembrandts they have to offer, which also happens to be the largest collection in the world, in one show. To mark the 350th anniversary of Rembrandt van Rijn’s death, the Amsterdam museum has put all 22 paintings, 60 drawings, and over 300 prints on show for the first time in museum history.
The exhibition, which opened on February 15th and will run through June 10th, closely follows the artist’s career from his beginnings, to becoming a sought-after artist, to his ending as a penniless artist of yesterday. It highlights Rembrandt’s better-known works like the marriage portraits of Marten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit, jointly owned by the Rijksmuseum and the Louvre, and works that are lesser-known, like the various nudes the artists created referred to as the ‘sexy drawings’ by Taco Dibbits, director of the Rijksmuseum, during a London press gathering. A number of never before exhibited drawings will grace the walls of the museum’s galleries for the first time, many of which have been kept out of the galleries due to their fragile nature.
The crowning jewel of the show is undoubtedly The Night Watch (1642), a prized possession of the Amsterdam museum. The painting was commissioned by the mayor of Amsterdam to depict himself and his shooting company. Often tending towards the rebellious, Rembrandt did so in an unorthodox manner resulting in a somewhat haphazard history scene. In addition to breaking the norm with his composition, Rembrandt’s The Night Watch also includes one of the first examples of an artist using a palette knife to mould paint onto the canvas’ surface.
‘All the Rembrandts’ will allow guests the opportunity to view The Night Watch before it undergoes an extensive bought of restoration. The work, though, won’t be totally out of view. Through the entire restoration process, spectators will be able to watch, both in person and online, as experts remove added varnishes and mend lasting effects from a 1975 knife attack. Conservators also hope to figure out what is causing a mysterious white haze across the lower half of the painting. ‘We want to do [the restoration] in public,’ said Dibbits. ‘[W]e feel that everybody, everywhere around the world, has the right to see The Night Watch, and to see what we do with it, because it is cultural heritage, and it belongs to all of us.’
This exhibition commences a year of celebrating Rembrandt and his legacy. The Rijksmuseum has invited children, professional artists, and amateurs alike to create their own Rembrandt-inspired works and submit them to the museum. These works will be viewed by a jury and in the summer, hundreds of the works chosen by the jury will be displayed in the museum. Then, in October, the museum, in collaboration with the Prado in Madrid, will hold an exhibition of works by Rembrandt and Velázquez examining their importance during the 17th-century Golden Age.