Wednesday, May 4, 2011

My Favorite Painting -- by Florida Fine Art Blog

The painting above, a Rembrandt Self Portrait from 1658, is the greatest painting I have ever seen live. And a painting I have been back to see countless times, in fact every time I'm in New York City.

After the Rembrandt post from this morning I just had to talk more about Rembrandt and point out my favorite painting.

Make sure you check out the museum's website (link at the bottom) it’s one of the first museum websites to have a 360 degree virtual tour!

I never imagined that my favorite painting would be a Rembrandt. I never studied Rembrandt in particular, never sought him out or focused much attention, other than what we are all taught in art history classes. But there I was, literally stunned silent, almost weeping at the greatness of a painting that five minutes earlier I would have told you, “Rembrandt, yea he's great, but not my thing."

It was 1996 and I was living in New York for a few months of the summer, taking art classes by day and trying to find trouble by night. I had already visited most of the city's more famous museums when my Dad suggested I visit The Frick Museum on 5th Ave and 70th Street. The museum is the former home of Henry Clay Frick, an industrialist from the turn of the 20th Century. Henry became an astute collector, traveling to Europe on many occasions and built three art collections in his lifetime. The museum holds his third and most important collection.

The Museum's appeal for me at first was that it was a 5th Avenue Mansion from the turn of the century, a home from the ‘Gilded Age”. I loved the idea that the home was preserved. But once you enter and begin to see what is on the walls you quickly realize that this is no ordinary home and Henry was no ordinary collector. Mr. Frick developed a superb eye over the years and amassed a collection that rivals any in the world. It’s a small but powerful collection with all the old masters represented.

My first visit I walked from room to room enjoying the furniture and rugs as much as the artwork. Then in a large naturally lit room called the West Gallery, I stalled by a large dark portrait. I instantly knew this painting was special. It was just better, done at a higher level than I think I have even seen before. The massive amount of layering and glazing that Rembrandt used and the way he focuses the light in this painting made me stop and decide to spend some time with this painting. The first thing that caught my eye were the hands, which are in the foreground of the painting and are as perfect as anything ever painted. After studying this painting you realize why Rembrandt is held up above all other artists. There is a level of skill that I have never seen in another painter. He went further somehow, deeper into the flesh to find the more correct reproduction.

It is a late self portrait, one of many that Rembrandt did throughout his lifetime. He is dressed in what looks like royal robes. Expensive and important clothing but ill-fitting, like he was still dressing for a younger time, a time in his prime. He no longer fills out the clothes, and now sits slumped over, the robes seem to encase him. The hat he wares is now too big and droopes down making him look even more frumpy. To paint yourself with such, almost disgust, Rembrandt is showing us how he truly feels. He is a man at the end of his powers, at the end of his life and he looks haunted. No hero’s pose, no grand composition , he is almost lost in the shadows. And the loathing is not just introspective. Rembrandt paints his eyes looking back at us with at least as much disappointment and abhorrence as he reserves for himself. I get chills just thinking and writing about the painting.

This painting is a prime example of what I mean when I say you have to go out and see these great paintings live. The difference between the image above and the real paintings could never be explained without seeing this painting for yourself. All of the genius of Rembrandt is lost in reproductions. The way the painting sucks you in and the size of the work all make the experience impossible to replicate in any reproduction.

I hope you dear reader have found your painting, found that artist that just “does it for you.” Art can change your life, I really believe that. There is much in this life that words can not explain or describe. Many feelings we encounter are hard to process. When you give Artwork the time required it can fill you up in a way nothing else can. Art can make you cry with joy and let you know, that your thoughts and your feelings are universal. You are not alone. GL

If you have not already please enjoy this link to a wonderful Rembrandt Web Catalog
Henry Clay Frick Museum website

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