"Rembrandt and His Time: Masterworks from the Albertina, Vienna"
Milwaukee Art Museum,
through Jan 8, 2006.
There are artists who, by virtue of their genius or productivity, warrant repeated consideration. Michelangelo and Picasso come to mind. And of course, Rembrandt. Certainly, the Dutch master is one of a handful of creators whose work—accessible and enigmatic by turns—represents art with a capital A to countless people. Aware of the artist's never-ending appeal and in anticipation his 400th birthday next year, the Milwaukee Art Museum offers this exhibition.
Although there are paintings on view, including Rembrandt's Landscape with the Good Samaritan (making its North American debut while on loan from Krakõw's Czartoryski Museum), this is essentially an assembly of drawings, and the show is not wall-to-wall Rembrandt. Of the 115 prints and drawings on display, only 26 are his. The remainder are works executed by his predecessors, contemporaries and successors. (This is not a criticism of the show, just a warning to the blockbuster-minded.) Despite their immediacy and spontaneity, these drawings aren't for everyone. They don't pack the same visual wallop as paintings, but for those who appreciate their punch, the show offers treasured viewing.
"Rembrandt and His Time" is judiciously contextualized, the works posited as manifestations of national pride; the images of land, cities and sea are reflective of political independence, mercantile prowess, and engineering determination. And while Rembrandt's The Three Crosses, for example, is remarkable, the real eye-openers are the unexpected pleasures: Adriaen van de Velde's richly modeled image of a shepherd, and a series of highly detailed rustic scenes by Cornelis Vroom.—Thomas Connors