Dennis Weller, curator of Northern European art at the North Carolina Museum of Art for 16 years running, has always wanted to do an exhibition on Rembrandt.
On Oct. 30, his wish came true.
The result of years of planning and collaboration, Rembrandt in America runs through Jan. 22 at the museum’s East Gallery.
In total, the exhibit showcases nearly 50 paintings — including more authentic Rembrandt works than have ever been exhibited together in America. Every piece in the collection was at one time believed to be a work of the 17th century Dutch master, though some have now been tossed out of his oeuvre by scholars.
Some of the paintings are believed to be works of Rembrandt’s pupils or contemporaries, including Jan Lievens and Govert Flinck. “Workshop” pieces show detail reminiscent of Rembrandt’s touch in parts of the art but lack the same level of genius in other areas. They are believed to have been painted partially by Rembrandt and finished by other artists.
Staff encourage patrons to observe the level of detail — particularly in expressions and attire — and note differences in authentic paintings and ones from Rembrandt’s pupils. “We hope visitors will walk back and forth between paintings,” Weller said.
The first painting in the exhibit is one of Rembrandt’s most iconic works, a self-portrait in his characteristic dark tones that gives patrons a glimpse into the eyes of the master himself.
“When you are creating an exhibit like this, you have a wish list and a reality check,” Weller said. “This was at the top of our wish list.”
Other works showcase Rembrandt’s famous style and illustrate a progression of both the artist himself and the changing attitudes of art collectors in America.
Weller emphasizes the degree of emotions conveyed through his works, from a tear forming in the eye of a soon-to-be-lifeless Lucretia moments after plunging a dagger into her heart, to a somber widow mourning the loss of her husband.
The last time a signed Rembrandt painting was known to be in North Carolina was in 1959. The Rembrandt in America exhibit will travel to the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts after leaving the NCMA.
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