This video says about itself:
20 January 2016
I’m down at the Ulster Museum to see Rembrandt‘s final self portrait before he died aged 63. You could say that these self portraits were the selfies of his day!
This painting represents one of his finest works. It is on a tour of the outer reaches of the UK so that folk unable to travel to London’s National Gallery might have an opportunity to see it. It remains at the Ulster Museum until early February.
Rembrandt (1606–1669) is perhaps the best-loved and most admired painter of the seventeenth century. Born in Leiden, he spent most of his life in Amsterdam, where he worked for a wide circle of wealthy and influential patrons. Rembrandt’s reputation was built on his skill in producing ambitious and dazzling biblical scenes, history paintings and portraits, yet it is through a remarkable series of self-portraits that we feel closest to the painter’s inner thoughts and character.
Rembrandt produced some 80 self-portraits – paintings, drawings and prints- over the course of his 40-year career. No artist before Rembrandt, and only a very few since, have made self-portraiture such a significant part of their life’s work. Self Portrait at the Age of 63, painted in the final year of the artist’s life, is among the very last works he finished. It is a work of sheer virtuosity: proof, if ever it were needed, that with maturity his talent had only become all the more profound.
Self Portrait At The Age Of 63, normally on show at the National Gallery in London, will be the main attraction in a new exhibition at the Ulster Museum.
Anne Stewart, curator of fine art with National Museums Northern Ireland, said: ” One of his most famous self-portraits, this incredible work of art is considered one of his most important and poignant works.
“There is an intensity and pride about the painting, as well as deep pain and sadness. There is a strong sense that this was a self-portrait by someone who knew he was close to the end of his life.”
Some of the Ulster Museum’s own collection of old masters, Dutch paintings from the 17th century will also be on display, including works by Salomon van Ruysdael, Jan Symonsz Pynas, Jan van der Heyden and Nicolaes Maes.
Belfast is the first stop on the National Gallery Masterpiece Tour which aims to bring some of the world’s most famous paintings to a wider audience.
By Philip Norton in Britain:
Facing up to questions of mortality
Saturday 9th April 2016
PHILIP NORTON recommends an intriguing exhibition of a Rembrandt painting
Rembrandt: Self-portrait at the Age of 63
Abbot Hall Art Gallery, Kendal
VISITING this exhibition is quite the opposite of the dreaded school trip to an art gallery.
No traipsing through room after room of dark brown paintings with ropes to dent curiosity and a monotony of gilt frames captive under spotlights. Just a single picture, in a darkened room, the hessian walls painted with layers of midnight-blue emulsion.
A Rembrandt self-portrait is the last of three paintings to be chosen from the National Gallery’s collection for a mini “masterpiece” tour of the provinces. It began three years ago with Manet’s Execution of Maximilian, followed in 2015 by a Venetian landscape by Canaletto.
The greatest impact of this precisely measured — and privately sponsored — gesture of generosity is the sharp focus lent to the chosen paintings. Seeing the painting alone brings to mind the just-completed work resting on Rembrandt’s easel.
Its restoration of 1967 is still quite evident — there are no layers of smoke and dirt to peer through.
Completed in 1669 it was the last of nearly 40 self-portraits. Much had happened since the round-faced young man of 22 turned into the more determined face of just a year later. By 1634, the painter is clearly enjoying his status with flamboyant velvet beret and a Three Musketeers’ moustache.
This is perhaps Rembrandt’s last carefree self-portrait as by the age of 34, although clearly increasing in stature and painterly confidence, he presents an internalised figure.
Mortality has perhaps become the dominant subject of inquiry.
By the time of this final portrait he was 63 and much has been said about his world-weary look.
It’s true he had suffered much loss. Only his fourth child Titus survived into adulthood. Three previous children were lost to infant illness and their mother Saskia had died from tuberculosis in 1642.
Titus, the subject of a number of Rembrandt’s paintings, was through a complicated arrangement the owner of a company employing Rembrandt. He also died a few months before this self-portrait was completed.
The fatigue of a man who lived beyond his means is evident and it’s true that in 1656 he was forced to sell his prized collection of antiquities to side-step bankruptcy. By 1660, nine years before this last portrait, his house — today the Rembrandt museum in Amsterdam — went too and even his printing press.
These events, until quite recently, shaped our view of the picture. It was thought Rembrandt died in poverty with barely enough money for food and so this painting was seen almost entirely as the reflection of a ruined man.
But it was not the case at all. Historians have since shown he died having built up a second smaller but still significant collection of antiquities and master drawings, enough to fill three rooms of his house. He was never forgotten in his lifetime but was always working and selling pictures.
What was perceived as the look of a ruined man is clearly more a case of acceptance and resignation.
The information panel shows the X-rayed canvas revealing an earlier version in which Rembrandt presented himself in the white beret of the painters studio holding paint brushes.
He had portrayed himself this way before and perhaps most telling, in this final version, is his decision to remove the props.
Rembrandt is no longer the salesman furthering his prospects but a quietly balanced image brimming with the shadows of past certainties. It’s the sort of painting WB Yeats called “the right twigs for an eagle’s nest.”
Runs until May 15, opening times: abbothall.org.uk, then at the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery, May 21-July 17, opening times: bristolmuseums.org.uk.
It’s a great idea to show just one painting like this. Gives people the opportunity to truly appreciate it.
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