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You make light drift The way you want. Your face is bruised and hurt But there is still love left. Love of the art and others. To the last Experiment went on. You stared beyond Your age, the times. You also plucked the past And tempered it. Self-portraits understand And old age can divest,.

With truthful changes, us of fear of death. Look, a new anguish. There, the bloated nose, The sadness and the joy. To paint's to breathe, And all the darknesses are dared. You chose What each must reckon with. Recordings used by permission of Bloodaxe Books Ltd.

1. Mourning Picture, Adrienne Rich (1965)

Explore poetry Browse poems Browse poets Special collections. And here it is significant that, save for the Night Watch , the handful of big historical canvases by Rembrandt are so negligible that critics rarely even mention them. They all fail for the same reason, that a luministic method suitable for small and intimate pictures becomes empty and meaningless when applied to big pictures of public import. One may add that on this great scale the eye reasonably demands more richness and variety of colour than Rembrandt's method permits. So, although the Night Watch , simply for isolated passages of magically light and imaginative painting, is a fascinating field for observation, it is as a whole a masterpiece gone wrong.

It is customary to date the tragic fall of Rembrandt's fortunes from the controversy over the Night Watch , and its general unpopularity. In this view there is probably some dramatic exaggeration. We probably make everything more sudden than it actually was. But the general truth is, that after the Night Watch Rembrandt's portrait commissions tail off significantly. He paints his friends, the sombre Jews who attract his curiosity and sympathy, Bible scenes of profoundest insight made, probably not for pay, but for his own eye.

And merely as a matter of chronology, when Saskia died in June, , within a few weeks of the finishing of the Night Watch , Rembrandt's personal happiness collapsed with his professional fortunes. Rembrandt was left in the big, cluttered house with an ailing son, Titus , nine months old, survivor of four children who, coming within as many years, had naturally died in early infancy.

The critics usually write of a period in Rembrandt's art limited by Saskia's death in and his bankruptcy in Since this stretch of years saw the synthesis of his fantastic and realistic endeavor, the making of his finest prints and practically the end of this activity, the division seems justified. But it should be noted that there is no marked difference in ideals between such a third period and the work of his latest years, rather a difference in opportunity and accomplishment.


He entered this period a strong and proud man of thirty-five or so, he ended it at forty-nine enfeebled and prematurely aged. In these days of narrowing fortunes, he made himself a new and humble happiness. The faithful nurse and housekeeper, Hendrickje Stoeffels , a young woman of utmost gentleness and kindness, as his numerous portraits of her show, became his mistress and, since the relation was unconcealed, in all but name his wife.

In these days he must constantly have read the Bible, perhaps not so much for religious consolation as for its amazing repertory of poignant human relations - stories of his fellow sufferers of old time. Within these years fall the greatest religious pictures - the Good Samaritan and the Supper at Emmaus ; the Vision of Daniel. While the method has not changed materially, the penetrable gloom with which Rembrandt loved to veil and relieve his figures has assumed a new and spiritual value.

There are many portraits of Hendrickje Stoeffels, none more perfect than that in the Louvre, so instinctive with benign humility and modest steadfastness. She wears unconsciously and without pride rich jewels, probably bought with Saskia's money. The few professional portraits of these years are of the finest quality.

That of his friend and patron, Jan Six , , is inferior to no portrait in the world, whether in swift and massive construction, rich decorative effect or in sympathetic visualization of character. For so entirely perfect a painting all verbal praise is an impertinence. The only real homage is to forget yourself while looking at it. Velazquez or Hals never painted anything more deftly and rightly, while the portrait has an emphasis on character and worth that even these great rivals hardly commanded.

These drab and lean years saw most of his finer imaginative creations. We have the very embodiment of youthful hopefulness and adventure in the Polish Rider. How confidently the stripling faces certain peril and possible death. Horse and rider are of a piece - both thoroughbreds. Even the mounting, broken landscape conveys a sense of lurking danger.

In this time fall most of his landscapes. He conceives nature as ominous and unfriendly - a place of imminent storms, threatening alike trees and the constructions of man. In these landscapes there is more emphasis of tragic mood than truthfulness. Indeed the method, with its extreme contrasts of light and dark and its reduction of colour to tone, is essentially dramatic, not descriptive. In two of the bigger pictures, the Landscape with Ruins , and The Mill - a masterpiece which some critics deny to him - Rembrandt has caught the diffused peacefulness of eventide.

Probably Rembrandt was fundamentally a city man who rarely gave much direct observation to nature, and merely wreaked his romantic excess in studio improvisations which were less landscapes than release for his own tumultuous moods. His fine observational work in landscape is not in his paintings but in his etchings. His best nudes are occasional recreations of these middle years.

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The Danae we have already considered, while other works include Bathing Woman , and the great Bathsheba , whose forms, as Renoir was later to say, "take the light" beautifully. Such were some of the sufficient solaces for dwindling health and fortune. Etching , which in the prosperous years may have been chiefly a recreation, soon begins to be a crucial source of income. The old romantic emotionalism reappears in chastened and disciplined form in the Three Crosses , in the Sacrifice of Isaac , in that most pathetic of evocations, Blind Tobit.

The price of any of these prints today would have kept the little family comfortable for many a year. As things went, the family situation steadily grew more distressful. Rembrandt's collector's lust was insatiable.

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Saskia's dowry and what little money he earned himself slipped through his loose fingers. Finally Saskia's relations intervened legally, and salvaged a little to form a trust for young Titus. In the big house on the Bree Street was inventoried for a bankrupt sale. Two rooms contained more than fifty paintings, many by esteemed Italian masters, not to mention arms and armor, Persian miniatures, and hundreds of prints. Rembrandt, in May of , tried to forestall his creditors by conveying his property to Titus. The auction sale, from which Rembrandt had fondly hoped to recoup himself, went off disastrously.

Only after nine years and much litigation, did Titus recover the small sum due him.

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The big house sold over their heads, the little family moved to the Inn of the Crown. Rembrandt probably made a little from his etchings, but when, in , Hendrickje and Titus set up a print shop, their articles of partnership declared Rembrandt incapable of earning anything. But not incapable of painting great pictures! The self-portrait in the Frick Collection, New York, was painted in the year of Rembrandt's bankruptcy. We have a man sad and worn, but confidently maintaining his dignity as a great personage. Rembrandt ruined is still Rembrandt.

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There is something about the portrait that inspires, with sympathy, a certain awe. We behold a king, to be sure in shabby regalia, but still a king. The picture has a sort of monumentality which is the new note in many of the later portraits. It is strongly present in the Jan Six of , and equally marked in an Old Woman cutting her Nails , as in the supremely elegant Lady with an Ostrich Feather , one of the latest portraits from his hand. This monumental quality must have been superb in the Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Joan Deijman , of which the central portion is preserved at Amsterdam.

The sharply foreshortened corpse has the grandest accent, as have the firm and skillful hands of the demonstrator. The fire that destroyed most of this great picture of , has, after all, left us sufficient evidence of its mastery, and a composition sketch shows that the theme was conceived monumentally. A comparison of the fragment with the Anatomy Lesson of will tell how far Rembrandt had travelled in twenty-four years.

The greatest picture of these narrowing years is, of course, the Syndics of the Cloth Guild , painted in One of the best Baroque paintings , it is surely the greatest portrait group existent. Out of a mere committee meeting of five business men, Rembrandt has wrought a universal symbol for rectitude and prudence. There is an amazing range of clearly denoted character - irony, simple good nature, bluff straight-forwardness, suspecting shrewdness, and dull tenacity.

And these various temperaments are concentrated on the single purpose of safeguarding the interests of an important trade, which is virtually a public service. It is the sense of togetherness, of mutual friendly understanding, that is the spiritual content of the Syndics. Two years later, at Haarlem, aged and decrepit Frans Hals was to express the same feeling as faithfully, and even more poignantly, in the Female Regents of St. Elizabeth's Hospital. But he was no longer able, indeed never had been able, to embody such a vision with a beauty of workmanship approaching Rembrandt's.

In some mysterious way the dull red of the Oriental rug which serves as tablecloth seems to pervade the entire brown surface. The impeccable arabesque of the group is admirably set off by the rectangular elements in the table, the chair, and the wainscotting. The figures live in their own atmosphere. As you gaze at this arrangement of cool and flushed browns, you look into a world which is most precisely the everyday world of great affairs. The Syndics was really Rembrandt's swan song, and a superbly sonorous song it was. A year earlier, , his last etching is dated. His tired eyes are no longer fit for such close work.

How it stood with him towards the end one may divine in the self-portrait at Kenwood House, London. Nothing is left of the princeliness of the Frick portrait. A wearied and almost broken old man, huddled down for warmth, looks out almost unseeingly beyond the hand that holds the palette and brushes. Fine white hair is untended. With the wisdom of resignation, Rembrandt has accepted the position of a poor and shabby man.

The face is not sad; the artist has the solace of his art. It is a face that compels sympathy to the point of tears, without really making any claim on pity. Oddly, this mild and gentle apparition has a strange spectral monumentality. Along with the Syndics it shows how great Rembrandt could be when actual appearances and imaginative vision jointly challenged his genius. In the old age of every strong man there must be black moments when he realizes the sheer hideousness of the gradual degradation of his body.

In such a moment, surely, Rembrandt painted the self-portrait at Cologne, in which he leers at us and himself in impotent defiance. And this grimacing spectre is the portrait of a man well short of sixty years old. Here is matter for depths of pity, but the picture is not self-pitying. It merely reckons with the appalling facts, and the sordid effigy of human wreckage is strangely glorified by a golden light, as that of sunset might transfigure a hulk rotting sordidly on the beach.

The loving drudge, Hendrickje, died in The ailing son, Titus, followed her to the grave in There was still a year of loneliness left for Rembrandt. He was buried in the Westerkerke, October 8, , in his early sixties. When Rembrandt died, Amsterdam probably knew it had lost a very eccentric and interesting character, but, one feels, had no sense that a great painter had departed. Dozens of young painters, many Rembrandt's pupils, knew better than this. They valiantly tried to imitate what was almost inimitable, his pictorial style, and more ill-advisedly still, what was entirely inimitable - his personal emotion.

2. Musée des Beaux Arts, W.H. Auden (1938)

Works by Rembrandt can be seen in the best art museums across the globe, notably the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam. In The Film Daily' s biographical sketches of directors July 1, , DeMille was already being credited with "the first developments in lighting and photography. When business partner Sam Goldwyn saw a scene in which only half an actor's face was illuminated, he feared the exhibitors would pay only half the price for the picture.

DeMille remonstrated that it was Rembrandt lighting. In George W. Bush's own words, "I told Laura and our artist friend Pam Nelson that I might like to take up painting. They were surprised — I had been an art-agnostic all my life. Pam suggested I hire her friend Gail Norfleet, a notable and talented Dallas artist, as my instructor. Several days later, Gail came over to the house and asked me what my objectives were.

Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, Lists of drawings , etchings , paintings , self-portraits. Hidden categories: Use dmy dates from October