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ONLY ON 3: Rembrandt in Raleigh

READ MORE: ONLY ON 3: Rembrandt in Raleigh
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RALEIGH, NC (WWAY) -- When you think of great art, you probably think of museums in places like New York, Paris or even Chicago. But for the next couple of months a trip up I-40 gives you a chance to experience the works of Rembrandt, one of the art world's most recognized name for centuries.

Rembrandt van Rijn, simply known as Rembrandt, is one of the most famous painters in the history of European art.

"In essence, he created a Rembrandt brand in the 1630s, in particular in Amsterdam," said Dennis Weller, co-curator of the exhibit "Rembrandt in America."

That brand is on showcase in the exhibit at the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh. It features 47 paintings in all, 30 of which by the Dutch master himself.

"This seems to be the largest collection of genuine Rembrandt paintings ever assembled in America," Weller said.

That's exciting to museum visitors.

"To see the real thing is a thrill," visitor Gloria Jacobi said. "And of course there's no doubt: the man was a genius."

Rembrandt's use of light and shadow in his work is what set him apart in the 1600s and continues to today.

"It creates a certain mystery, a certain sense of emotion that he brings to the sitters, be it a portrait or a history painting," Weller said.

Portraits were a specialty of Rembrandt, and many of the paintings in the exhibit highlight his unique ability to capture his subject.

"It's like they're looking out over time, through time at you," Jacobi said. "It's a connection. That's what makes the portraits so interesting. It's almost alive to you, and you are dialoguing with them."

"Prior to Rembrandt, portraits were rather stiff and somewhat lifeless," Weller said. "What Rembrandt did was bring life to the figures."

To many, the intrigue behind Rembrandt is the mystery surrounding his work. At one time it was thought he had produced about 700 paintings. Now scholars believe the number is fewer than half of that.

"Depending on how much someone paid for a portrait, more or less might be painted by the master and other parts may be finished by studio assistants," chief registrar Maggie Gregory said. "It just makes it very murky to try and sort it out."

Included in the exhibit are one of two paintings originally thought to be Rembrandt's brought to the museum back in the 1950s, but scholars later decided that neither were painted by the Dutch artist. So is it a Rembrandt or not? Several paintings in the exhibit previously thought to be Rembrandt's have since been attributed to his students or followers. There are even a few that experts are still undecided on.

"Now you don't know whether to believe the other pieces," exhibit visitor Derrick Sider said. "How much of that is his work? That's sort of the mystery and part of the intrigue of this exhibit."

The exhibit will be in Raleigh until mid-January. It's open Tuesdays through Sundays.

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