Exploring Rembrandt - From a Study Day in Edinburgh to a Lunchtime Talk in Leeds

Rembrandt van Rijn, “The Hundred Guilder Print”, c. 1649 © Leeds Museums and Galleries.jpg

Rembrandt van Rijn, The Hundred Guilder Print, about 1649 © Leeds Museums and Galleries

Dr Laura Claveria, Assistant Curator at Leeds Art Gallery, describes how attendance at a Study Day inspired her to develop a new lunchtime talk to engage visitors with a famous print by Rembrandt:

Last September I had the pleasure to attend one of the SSN European Paintings Pre-1900 Study Days, which was organised by The National Gallery and The National Galleries of Scotland. The event focused on Rembrandt & Britain and, as part of the programme, we had the opportunity to visit the exhibition Rembrandt – Britain’s Discovery of the Master accompanied by Tico Seifert, Senior Curator of Northern European Art.

Superbly curated, the show explored how Rembrandt inspired and captivated British artists and collectors from the Dutch master’s lifetime to the present. In addition to displaying an incredible array of works from both UK and overseas collections, it revealed the popularity that Rembrandt’s prints reached in the late eighteenth century and how these helped him gain unrivalled recognition and admiration in England.

Testament to this collecting fever is also a group of 68 prints proudly held by Leeds Art Gallery. This wide-ranging collection includes self-portraits, figure studies, genre subjects, hunting scenes, landscapes and biblical stories. Chronologically speaking, we have examples from the early and more experimental 1630s all the way through to the monumental mature series of the 1650s. These works show Rembrandt’s passion for printmaking, particularly etching, as well as the extremely high quality he achieved technically speaking.

Every Thursday Leeds Art Gallery runs lunchtime talks in which curators and guest speakers lead an in-depth conversation about an artwork from the collection. These talks are usually a great opportunity to discuss art with an interesting mix of people: workers dropping during their lunch break, artists, families, students, retired people, etc.

A few weeks ago, inspired by the study day in Edinburgh, I devoted one of our Thursday Talks to Rembrandt’s The Hundred Guilder Print.  The interest, technical complexity and exquisite beauty of this particular piece led to fascinating conversations about Rembrandt’s connections to Jewish traders, the psychological and naturalistic portrait of the figures, his light study, his consideration of printmaking as an independent art form, and the multiple states he made of the plates. In addition, thanks to what I learnt at the study day and the research I did following the event, I was able to explore and share with our audience information about its provenance and the context in which these types of works were collected in England. Visitors were also really keen to find out more about the flourishing market of Rembrandt’s prints both in Amsterdam and in London and the different approach artists and collectors had to editions at the time, especially the reworking of the original plate by Captain William Bailie in the late 1700s.

One of the most enjoyable and exciting aspects of exploring masterpieces like The Hundred Guilder Print is that no matter from how many new and different angles you look at it, its richness is never exhausted.

Dr Laura Claveria, Assistant Curator of Works on Paper, Leeds Art Gallery