Continuing through March 3, 2018
On loan from the National Gallery, London, Rembrandt van Rijn’s “Self Portrait at the Age of 34” exemplifies the “fleshy” livingness and glowing surfaces that animates all of Rembrandt’s paintings and makes them instantly recognizable. This particular work, completed in 1640, presented its patron with a double gift: it simultaneously provided a stately likeness of the artist himself and a work fashioned by his own hand. Rembrandt also privately challenged himself in this work to meet, and exceed, the artistic standards set by admired forebears, including Raphael, Titian and Dürer. The painting’s accompanying wall text identifies (and presents images of) three specific portraits by the earlier masters that call attention to the compositional and color similarities Rembrandt’s work shares with each.
“Self Portrait at the Age of 34” shows a gentlemanly and slightly portly Rembrandt regally cloaked in the plush folds of his jacket, whose sleeves undulate and flow in rhythmic coordination with the sitter’s hat. Rembrandt tilts his shoulders here as if into an angular line that graciously leads the viewers’ eye towards the center or vortex of the work. There a hearth-like, atmospheric and luxurious blend of amber, reds, and burnt umber browns of the work warm the soul. An accompanying separate, though coordinated exhibition presents an intimate group of 21 of Rembrandt’s prints (from the museum’s expansive collection). Though in different parts of the museum, considering the two together allows an edifying opportunity to observe how the artist handled the more lyrical lines and narrative themes of his graphic work versus the broader voluminous spaces and emotional/psychological introspection of this extremely powerful painting