17 August 2010

Rembrandt Master Study

Master study of Rembrandt self-portrait, 16 x 12, oil on linen board

 Master studies are such a powerful teaching tool.  I'm always amazed by how much I learn each time I do one.  My post today is a master study for a class exploring the techniques of Rembrandt van Rijn, taught by Meadow Gist.  If you study portraiture in the West, it's hard to avoid Rembrandt. He casts a long shadow.  It's good to be familiar with his work.

Rembrandt painted many self-portraits.  Unfortunately, I couldn't find much info on this particular sitting.  Judging from his hair color, it's was painted before 1652 (he was born in 1606).  The image (see original below) came from the book Painting Techniques of the Masters by Hereward Lester Cooke.  Several things about this painting appealed to me...the unusual lighting, the strong core shadow down the contours of Rembrandt's face, the subtle handling of value in the shadows, and, of course, that beret and earring.  He had panache.

Self-Portrait, 36 x 29, canvas, Widener Collection

For the current class, after completing a master study, students will create an original portrait from life. The portrait should be inspired by Rembrandts' techniques and style, and incorporate his very limited palette, chiaruscuro, and the manipulation of thick paint layers to achieve his characteristic textural effects.  I'm working on the second portrait now.

Here's one more self-portrait.  Click on it to see Rembrandts' loose brushwork. Beautiful effects. (from Rembrandt: The Painter at Work by van de Wetering.)

Rembrandt self-portrait, 1659, 33 x 26, canvas, Washington Natl Gallery of Art