July 13, 2009

Rembrandt 'n the Dutch Gang

My friend, San, is at this very moment tromping around Europe. He's going to world class galleries, and I am very jealous. Although I can't get to the Louvre, I do have the Vancouver Art Gallery within arms' reach.

Normally, I wouldn't be keen on seeing the same old Emily Carrs that the west is so fond of, but right now the VAG (seriously, that's the acronym...yeah) has an exhibit on loan from Amsterdam called 'The Golden Age of Dutch Art' that includes Rembrandt and Vermeer. Sick.

It was amazing to see these 17th century artists' work. Such fine draftsmen and colourists. I learned a great deal about composition, lighting, paint application, texture, and more. I fully understand why students are to learn from the Masters and see the work in person. It was an honour to walk straight up to the painting to see exactly how the brush stroke accomplished a certain effect.

Above is an oil study I did of a Rembrandt self-portrait. You're not allowed to paint at the VAG, so I did this a week or so ago in preparation for the big exhibit. Apparently Rembrandt rarely used more than red, yellow, and black in his compositions. I gave it a shot here, but added a little white for the accent. I wouldn't hold this next to the original, it's too embarrassing, but if you are still curious it's here. I also just learned that Rembrandt had his students copy his self-portraits as part of their training. Kind of a cool coincidence (and a little narcissistic).

I understand that art today has evolved, but I would love to see more artists striving for that impeccable level of discipline that existed in the Golden Age of painting. Perhaps it has always been few and far between who have mastered gesture, character, line, colour, and so on. Maybe that's why we see the same artists in all the museums across the globe. Maybe that's why they are called Masters.