Saturday, September 23, 2023

Rediscover Rembrandt

Etchings by the iconic painter are on display at Peninsula Fine Arts Center until July 1

Three hundred and fifty years after his death, Rembrandt is remembered as an iconic painter celebrated alongside Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and Vincent Van Gogh. His portraits, self-portraits, landscapes, and mythological and biblical works are featured in art history books the world over and hang in some of the most prestigious of museums. His most famous paintings include “The Night Watch,” “The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp,” “The Storm on the Sea of Galilee,” and “The Return of the Prodigal Son.”

Rembrandt is one of the few great artists whose work was actually appreciated during his lifetime. But it was his etchings rather than his paintings that garnered the most attention — and cash — throughout his working years, 1625 to 1669.

“Obviously a lot of people know about Rembrandt and his paintings,” says Diana Blanchard Gross, Peninsula Fine Arts Center curator. “We can all think of these portraits that he did that were phenomenal, but really during his time it was his etchings that solidified his reputation as an artist.”

Etchings are carvings in metal plates that are then filled with ink and used to make prints. Rembrandt created more than 290 etchings between 1626 and 1660, many of which were completed in and around 1630 when Rembrandt was just 24 years old.

“Rembrandt learned so much in doing these etchings, they were a great study for him,” Gross says. “Photos don’t do them justice. The etchings are incredible and painstakingly detailed, you need a magnifying glass to fully appreciate some of the smaller ones.”

A Rare Chance to See Rembrandt’s Etchings

Fortunately, locals have the rare opportunity to see more than 30 of Rembrandt’s etchings at the Peninsula Fine Arts Center right now. The exhibition, which was originally scheduled to run through June 24 was recently extended to July 1 due to its popularity.

The exhibition features two separate collectionsSordid and Sacred: The Beggars in Rembrandt’s Etchings, selections from the John Villarino Collection, and Rembrandt: The Consummate Etcher and Other 17th Century Printmakers, which is on loan from Syracuse University. After its run at Peninsula Fine Arts Center, Sordid and Sacred will travel the southern United States and Rembrandt: The Consummate Etcher will return to upstate New York.

“It’s really great to see the quality and amount of work on prints in one place,” Gross says. “It’s really an amazing opportunity that doesn’t come around very often. If you want to see Rembrandt’s work in person, you don’t want to miss this.”

What to Expect

Beggar seated on a bank, 1630

When you go, Gross recommends allowing for at least an hour to wander the self-guided exhibit. Docent tours are available upon request to groups of six or more. The exhibit is open to all ages and features an interactive portion kids love where they can make a print of their own to take home.

Gross also encourages patrons to be on the lookout for “Beggar seated on a bank, 1630.”

“It’s this wonderful, intimate portrait of a beggar,” she says. “But if you look closely at it, you can see it’s really a self-portrait of Rembrandt. He’s sitting on the side of the street and he’s kind of looking past you, like you’re invisible, which is how we tend to look at people living on the street. It captures this essence, and I just love it.”


Peninsula Fine Arts Center is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m. Adult admission is $7.50. Children 6 to 12 is $4. 101 Museum Dr., Newport News, VA 23606.

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