Rembrandt: Britain's Discovery of the Master
- David Pollock
- 10 August 2018
Exhibition of Dutch painter's work
The formula for a blockbuster Edinburgh Art Festival summer exhibition is adhered to without much deviation for summer 2018. First, take an acknowledged classical master or masters of painting (unfortunately, the priorities of many centuries past means women are rarely involved); then painstakingly source enough paintings to tell a story, put all the research done up there on the walls and in the brochure, put it in the National Gallery of Scotland's RSA building, and await success.
As such, nobody is likely to be stunned by the shock of the new when they visit this extensive exhibit of the work of the 17th-century Dutch master Rembrandt, although they are likely to be impressed with the creditable amount of work which has gone into building the exhibition, both in terms of the research – the particular spin here being an examination of Rembrandt's admiration by British audiences and collectors over four centuries – as well as the great efforts made to bring the work together. Some pieces are being shown for the first time, while others haven't been seen in Britain in as long as a century.
There's a certain intrigue to the historical sections which detail exactly how Rembrandt's work first started making its way to the UK some years after his death, how they were later definitively attributed to him (or, in some cases, not), and how they came to flood the market in the 18th century, with 'The Mill', in particular, inspiring landscape artists including JMW Turner and John Constable.
Among the greatest examples on display are the mysterious 'Balthazar's Feast'; the atmospheric nocturnal landscape (Rembrandt's only such painting in darkness) 'Landscape with the Rest on the Flight into Egypt'; the famed portrait 'An Old Woman Reading'; and pieces by numerous other artists who bear Rembrandt's influence, including Paolozzi, Eardley, Bellany, Frank Auerbach and – unusually – the sculptor Jacob Epstein. It wouldn't be a blockbuster, after all, without a few greatest hits in there too.
Rembrandt: Britain's Discovery of the Master, National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh, until 14 Oct, £10–£15 (£8.50–£13).