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Making eye contact with Rembrandt

Today's guest blogger is Haohao Lu, the Allen W. Clowes Fellow, European Painting and Sculpture before 1800


rembrandtThe self-portrait of Rembrandt van Rijn is one of the most acclaimed paintings at the IMA. Painted when the artist was in his early 20s, this portrait appears to be his first attempt to render the human face as faithfully as possible. He included pimples on his chin and jaw-line. His parted lips add to the complexity of his face, making the likeness all the more compelling. Half shadowed by the beret, he looks at the viewer, as if inviting us to study the subtle topography of his face. Our returning gaze, however, was not made easy: a close study usually involved standing on one’s toes, as the self-portrait was hung above the mantelshelf in the Clowes study. This summer, however, this portrait is brought down to eye level.

A group of Dutch and Flemish masterpieces are now on view in the courtyard of the Clowes Pavilion. In addition to Rembrandt’s self-portrait, there are Jan Brueghel the elder’s river landscape, a portrait of Frans Hals, and Rubens’s oil sketch depicting the life of Constantine the Great. At eye level and in the softly illuminated courtyard, these paintings reveal their usually masked details and texture.

This temporary reinstallation is an effort to make available the most important paintings from the Clowes Collection, as its galleries are currently closed for renovation. Visit the IMA this summer and enjoy the unprecedented closeness to the masterpieces, before they all go back.

Filed under: Art, Installation

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