Rembrandt in America: Three Lenses to View The Exhibition

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Rembrandt in America: Three Lenses to View The Exhibition

Rembrandt in America is now on view at The Cleveland Museum of Art through May 28. You may know the artist’s name, but the exhibition offers the opportunity to explore his life and work and to understand why collecting his work in America was so important.

This is the first of a series of blogs that will dig deeper into topics related to the exhibition. We’ll start with offering 3 lenses to view the exhibition.

Portrait of a Man Holding a Black Hat, about 1639. Rembrandt van Rijn (Dutch, 1606–1669). Oil on wood; 79.5 x 69.4 cm. The Armand Hammer Collection, Los Angeles.

#1 This exhibition will help you understand why Americans have been so interested in collecting Rembrandt paintings.

His name has become a synonym for excellence. – Tom Rassieur, Rembrandt in the Seventeenth Century, Rembrandt in America: Collecting and Connoisseurship

Americans including J. Paul Getty, Andrew Mellon and George Eastman desired to collect works of art by European Old Masters as trophies for their collections. Many of the pictures that came to the United States from European collections were optimistically attributed to Rembrandt by scholars and art dealers. In many respects, America became the proving ground for new Rembrandt discoveries and reattributions.

Why was owning a Rembrandt so special?

The artist is considered as one of the greatest European painters and the most important Dutch painter of the 17th century. His contributions to art came during a period called the Dutch Golden Age. As a portrait painter, he is revered for his mastery of capturing his subjects and how he used light to draw the viewer into the painting.

#2 This exhibition offers a survey of his entire career.

Practice what you know, and it will help to make clear what now you do not know. - Rembrandt van Rijn

Rembrandt van Rijn was born in Leiden, Holland in 1606. At age 15, Rembrandt’s gift for drawing was so obvious that he and his father agreed he should give up academic studies and study art. He became an apprentice to a local painter who taught him history painting, whose subjects were political,mythological and religious. Rembrandt studied in this workshop from 1621 to 1624 and eventually mastered a broad range of media.

#3 This exhibition explores how to look closely and make judgments about who created the works.

Portrait of a Woman, 1635 or earlier. Rembrandt van Rijn (Dutch, 1606–1669) and workshop. Oil on wood; 77.5 x 64.8 cm. The Cleveland Museum of Art, The Elisabeth Severance Prentiss Collection.

“Audiences will witness an unprecedented number of authentic Rembrandt paintings, but will have the chance to explore why some works attributed to him have been reconsidered,” Jon Seydl, the Paul J. and Edith Ingalls Vignos, Jr., curator of European paintings and sculpture,1500-1800, at the Cleveland Museum of Art

Unique to the Cleveland exhibition is a gallery where visitors may examine the museum’s 1635 Portrait of a Woman by Rembrandt and workshop, using a variety of scientific tools.

This painting has long been understood as a work with considerable condition problems. Past restorations have solved some of the issues, but in a few cases, treatments obscured more than they revealed about the painting. As a result, the attribution has been contested and the current condition has hindered the ability to see the picture properly.

More info, purchase tickets @

-- Kesha Williams