Rembrandt exhibition on film

This video from Britain says about itself:

4 November 2014

Watch the new Rembrandt from the National Gallery, London and Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam cinema trailer, part of EXHIBITION ON SCREEN – your front row seat to the world’s greatest art.

Every Rembrandt exhibition is eagerly anticipated but this major new show, focused on the final years of his life and hosted by London’s National Gallery and Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum is the biggest in many years. Given exclusive & privileged access by both galleries, the film documents this extraordinary show and interweaves Rembrandt’s life story with the behind the scenes preparations at both institutions. For many, this is the greatest artist that ever lived – this film will take a close look at the man behind such acclaim.

On 15 April 2017, I went to see this Rembrandt exhibition film. Another film in the Exhibition on Screen series was about Hieronymus Bosch.

The theme of the exhibition is Rembrandt’s later years, 1651-1669. Usually, art historians take 1651 as a starting point, as Rembrandt then changed technically, using broader brush strokes in his paintings.

During the preparations for the exhibition, people discovered that Rembrandt had made changes compared to the earliest versions of his works of art. In one case, Rembrandt had done quite some work on a painting, but did not finish it, and later made another painting on that canvas.

The film names four influences on Rembrandt: Caravaggio; Rubens; Lucas van Leyden, from the same Leiden city as Rembrandt; and Pieter Lastman, who taught the young Rembrandt. Lastman inspired Rembrandt to make paintings about biblical history, antique history and mythology. Yet, if we (not the film) compare what Rembrandt painted about and what his older contemporary and inspiration Rubens painted about, then we see a striking difference. 75% of Rubens’ work had religious or antique historical and mythological subjects. With Rembrandt, only 25% of his work fitted into these categories. While 70% of Rembrandt’s work were portraits, including self-portraits. Only 15% of Rubens’ work were portraits; 0% self-portraits.

In this, Rembrandt went against the traditional view of which visual art categories were supposedly superior and which were supposedly inferior. Traditionally, painting Christian religious or antique historical or mythological scenes was seen as more ‘noble’ than painting portraits. However, the seventeenth century Dutch republic was different in this, the film remarks. In other European countries, painters worked for the Roman Catholic church (or for princely or other noble courts, the film makers might have added). In the Netherlands, the urban bourgeois, recently victorious in the revolt against the monarchy of Spain and its aristocratic old order, wanted portraits of themselves. And Rembrandt and others painted them. While in Rubens’ southern Low Countries (roughly what later became Belgium) the Spanish armies had managed to suppress the revolt and save the old social and religious order. The film, describing the revolt against the Spanish kings in Dutch national terms, does not use words like ‘bourgeois’ or ‘class’; but studying the context of Rembrandt’s and Rubens’s works suggests them.

There were not only painters inspiring Rembrandt. Rembrandt himself inspired many later painters. Including Francisco Goya. Goya said: ‘I had three teachers: nature, Velazquez, and Rembrandt’.

One can speculate whether Rembrandt was also an inspiration for Goya in depicting monarchs’ relatives unflatteringly. Rembrandt got one commission from the princely court in Holland (princely, as the Stadhouders in the Low Countries were also absolute monarchs in the tiny statelet of Orange in southern France). But when his portrait of Princess Amalia von Solms turned out to be not flattering enough, he never got a commission from that court again. Maybe a bit in the vein of Goya a century and half later, who is said to have mocked the Spanish royal family in his portrait painting of them.

Talking about Rembrandt and princely families: he twice made a painting about Lucretia, a woman from ancient Roman historical tradition. According to that tradition, in 509 BC the son of the king of Rome, Sextus Tarquinius, raped Lucretia. Sextus Tarquinius thought he could commit that crime with impunity, as he was a man, Lucretia a woman; he was a prince, Lucretia a subject. Like in 2015 a scion of the Saudi royal family harassed women sexually in the USA, saying: ‘I am a prince and I do what I want. You are nobody!’ Sextus Tarquinius told Lucretia that if she would not submit to being raped, then he would kill both her and one of her slaves, place their bodies together, and claim he had defended her husband’s honour when he caught her having adulterous sex. In despair, after the rape Lucretia then committed suicide.

The film points out that Rembrandt’s first Lucretia painting shows the subject (in seventeenth century rather than Roman antiquity clothes) on the verge of killing herself with a dagger, still a bit uncertain whether she would do it.

Rembrandt, Lucretia preparing to stab herself

While the second painting shows Lucretia just after she had become sure about her decision, having inflicted a lethal wound in her breast, and ringing an alarm, summoning witnesses to tell them Prince Sextus Tarquinius had raped her, as her last words before dying.

Rembrandt, Lucretia after stabbing herself

Anger in Rome about the rape and suicide of Lucretia led to a revolt in which the royal family was deposed and replaced by the Roman republic.

That Roman republic became an inspiration for later revolutions in which monarchs were overthrown and replaced by republics. Like the eighteenth century American revolution against King George III of Britain, in which the first president of the USA, George Washington, was compared to Roman republican statesman Cincinnatus. During the French revolution against King Louis XVI revolutionary painter David painted scenes from Roman republican history.

Earlier, during Rembrandt’s lifetime, the Roman republic had been an inspiration for English revolutionaries who deposed and beheaded King Charles I and made England a republic.

The film is quite elaborate on how Rembrandt painted Lucretia’s clothes, her blood and her facial expressions telling about her inner feelings. However, the film does not ask why Rembrandt considered Lucretia a worthy subject. According to ancient Roman historiography, Sextus Tarquinius’ royal dynasty were tyrants, killing people and taxing the people heavily. They were also Etruscans. These Etruscan royals did not speak their Roman subjects’ Latin, but a very different language as their mother tongue. Like taxation and bloodshed had been causes of the Etruscan-Roman royals’ downfall, Spanish royal taxes and the Spanish inquisition burning Protestants at the stake had also been factors in the Dutch revolt. May Rembrandt not have seen a parallel between the royal dynasty of Rome and King Philip II and his successors in Spain; and between the successful republican revolt in Rome, and the succesful (at least in the northern Low Countries) Dutch revolt against the monarchy?

I don’t know any writings by Rembrandt confirming that; so, for the moment this is just speculation by me.

In the film, there is another speculation: that the exiled French philosopher Descartes and Rembrandt knew each other and influenced each other. Again, as far as I know, neither in writings by Descartes nor in writings by Rembrandt there is proof of that.

Finally, the film mentioned and illustrated that Rembrandt was an important innovator in art techniques. In painting, and also in etching.

Dutch painter Vermeer, new book

This 2001 video is called Vermeer: Master of Light (COMPLETE Documentary).

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Saturday 18th March 2017

IN HIS relatively short life — he died in 1675 at the age of 43 — Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer was unknown outside his native country and his name faded into obscurity after his death.

That changed in the mid-19th century, when his paintings of domestic interior scenes of middle-class life grew in popularity in Europe and, eventually, internationally.

Vermeer was not a prolific painter — only 34 canvases are directly attributed to him today — because he worked slowly and meticulously.

He was by no means wealthy and the pigments he used were expensive and this is possibly a reason why his works are few in number.

Almost all his paintings appear to be set in two rooms in his house and feature the same furniture and decorations and very often the same people, usually women.

Taschen publishers are noted for the quality of their art books and that is again in evidence in the newly and sumptuously produced Vermeer: The Complete Works (£25).

It draws on the complete catalogue of his output, with the images accompanied by a detailed and informative commentary.

The quality of the reproductions are such that Vermeer’s extraordinary representation of light shines through on every page and close-ups of selected canvases enhance one of the great pleasures of observing Vermeer’s work — constructing one’s own narrative about his subjects.

The book is a fitting tribute to a painter acknowledged as one of the greats of the Dutch “golden age.”


Win a copy of Vermeer: The Complete Works. The Morning Star has a copy of Vermeer: The Complete Works to give away as a prize. All you have to do is name Vermeer’s birthplace and send your answer on a postcard to Vermeer Competition, 52 Beachy Road, London E3 2NS or by email to Please ensure you include your full name and address with your answer.

Closing date: Saturday March 25, 2017

Dutch museum buys Van Doesburg painting

Theo van Doesburg, Contra-Compositie VII

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

Museum De Lakenhal in Leiden has purchased the painting Contra-Composition VII by Theo van Doesburg. The museum paid nearly 1.9 million euros at an auction in London.

Van Doesburg painted Contra-Composition VII in 1924 in Paris, during the heyday of De Stijl. The abstract work according to De Lakenhal is a striking example of the art movement.

“In the painting one can clearly see the influence of Piet Mondrian, with whom Van Doesburg after settling in Paris in October 1923 interacted intensively for a short period. …


Meta Knol, director of the Leiden museum, is very happy with the purchase. From 1916 to 1921 Van Doesburg lived in Leiden. He developed his avant-garde art there and founded the magazine De Stijl, for which the art movement is named.

Until now only five abstract paintings by Van Doesburg from the 1920s could be seen in Dutch museums. Many paintings from that time were sold by his widow in the 1940s to museums and collectors in the United States. Contra-Composition VII was one of them.

The Lakenhal is closed until the spring of 2019 because of a major renovation. Contra-Composition VII therefore is temporarily hanging in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

The painting is 45.5 by 45.5cm.

Hieronymus Bosch exhibition gets award

This 25 September 2015 video from the Prado museum in Spain is called Bosch. The Centenary exhibition.

The 2016 exhibition commemorating that Dutch visual artist Hieronymus Bosch had died 500 years ago has won the Global Fine Art Award in the category Best Renaissance, Baroque, Old Masters, Dynasties – solo artist.

The Noordbrabants Museum in the Netherlands and the Prado museum in Spain had organized this exhibition jointly.

Painter Kerry James Marshall, United States exhibition

This video from the USA says about itself:

2 May 2016

This video accompanies the exhibition Kerry James Marshall: Mastry, organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. The exhibition is cocurated by Dieter Roelstraete, former Manilow Senior Curator at the MCA; Helen Molesworth, Chief Curator at MOCA; and Ian Alteveer, Associate Curator at The Met. At the MCA, the exhibition was realized with the assistance of former Curatorial Assistant Karsten Lund and former Research Associate Abigail Winograd.

Kerry James Marshall: Mastry is on view at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, April 23–September 25, 2016, at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, October 25, 2016–January 29, 2017, and at The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, March 12–July 2, 2017.

By Clare Hurley in the USA:

American painter Kerry James Marshall’s retrospective, Mastry

2 February 2017

Kerry James Marshall: Mastry, an exhibition at the Met Breuer Museum in New York City, October 25, 2016 – January 29, 2017; subsequently at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, March 12 – July 2, 2017.

American artist Kerry James Marshall’s paintings of barbershops and beauty parlors, public housing projects and middle-class suburbia are vibrant renderings of quotidian twentieth century African-American life that are distinctly modern while embracing the canon of Western European art. This retrospective of 35 years of Marshall’s work, jointly organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, is welcome and somewhat overdue.

In De Style (1993), two urbane young men are getting their “dos” done while others hang out in the seats along the wall. The young men’s deadpan gazes assert their self-confidence within the social hierarchy of an African-American barbershop. The painting explicitly references a sixteenth century Hans Holbein portrait, Two Ambassadors, of similarly confident and worldly young noblemen. At the same time, it alludes by its title and color scheme to the Dutch De Stijl movement (1922-1932), a form of pure abstraction that distilled the visual world into grids of black, white, yellow, red and blue.

De Style, 1993. Acrylic and collage on unstretched canvas

Such a mash-up between historical contexts and artistic styles is characteristic of postmodernism in its heyday in the early 1990s, a zeitgeist that influenced Marshall. Set apart from his contemporaries to some extent, however, by his attention to scenes of working class life and his continuation of a tradition of representational figurative painting, his work has perhaps received less attention than its due over the past 30 years.

Amid the present ramping up of identity politics, however, the fact that all of Marshall’s figures are exclusively and uniformly painted the darkest hue of black has won him attention. …

His most significant body of work is the Garden Project, a series of five large-scale paintings on canvas tarps affixed directly to the wall with grommets that takes its name from public housing projects in Chicago and Los Angeles. Built in connection with the Great Society programs in the 1960s in the US, these densely clustered high-rise complexes, often named “Gardens,” were attempts to alleviate the explosive social tensions building up in urban areas across the country.

Marshall himself lived in one such housing project when his family moved from Birmingham, Alabama, to Watts in 1963. Two years later, police brutality provoked a five-day uprising in the Los Angeles neighborhood that resulted in 34 deaths, thousands of arrests and $40 million in property damage, and necessitated the calling out of 4,000 National Guard to suppress it.

The pall of such events, though not referred to explicitly, hangs over Marshall’s Garden Series despite their sunny blue skies. The painting Many Mansions (1994) shows three men tending flowerbeds, identically dressed in white shirts and black pants. The towers of Chicago’s Stateway Gardens form an imprisoning wall behind them. From their steely expressions and the cellophane-wrapped gift baskets of stuffed animals at their feet, they would seem to be digging graves, rather than gardening.

Many Mansions, 1994. Acrylic on paper mounted on canvas

Marshall has said he wanted to show life in these projects as something more than concentrated poverty ridden with drugs and crime. He focuses our attention on the figures, many of them children, who inhabit this world, stoically playing, running, camping out in these concrete-bound landscapes. Recurrent themes are the aspiration to a middle class life, the desire for leisure and romance, and the promise of equality often frustrated and betrayed. Other noteworthy paintings are Souvenir 1 (1997), of a golden-winged woman carefully tending to the memories of fallen civil rights and Black Panther leaders in her shrine-like living room, and The Lost Boys (1993), in memoriam to two young men who met an early death.

That being said, Marshall’s postmodernist-influenced outlook … has severely limited his ability to place these experiences in the broader context of political developments in the US over the course of the 1980s and 1990s. Likewise, his treatment of black working class life as a social universe entirely unto itself contributes to this disconnect and makes this life seem fixed in amber. …

Marshall’s difficulties are hardly his alone, but are shared by many of his generation, particularly those of the so-called “Pictures Generation,” a diverse group including John Baldessari, David Salle, Cindy Sherman, Richard Prince, Robert Longo, and Mark Tandy. United by their skepticism toward the authenticity of the image per se, these artists did not create but rather “appropriated” images, whether from advertising or Old Masters paintings, in order to comment upon their artificiality, their supposed lack of meaning. Marshall may have maintained his belief that visual art could still communicate something original about the objective world, but he shares other aspects of this postmodern outlook.

Souvenir 1, 1997. Acrylic, collage, silkscreen, and glitter on canvas

He came of age with the burgeoning of the California art scene in the1960s-early 1970s. As part of Los Angeles’s efforts to establish its credentials as “America’s Second Art City,” the Pasadena Art Museum mounted an influential retrospective of avant-garde artist Marcel Duchamp in 1963 and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) opened in 1965 with a focus on contemporary art. The early LA art scene embraced sleek European minimalism, the Pop Art of Andy Warhol, and the politically charged assemblage/installations of such artists as Edward and Nancy Kienholz.

As a high school senior, Marshall turned down a scholarship to the Chouinard Institute, where for decades many of Walt Disney’s illustrators honed their skills in technical drawing and animation. By the early 1970s, the newly founded California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) absorbed the Chouinard, replacing its traditional skills-based training, so essential for commercial work but considered “stifling” to visionary artists, in favor of more experimental conceptual work.

For Marshall, a working-class kid from Watts who wanted to paint like an Old Master, neither the Chouinard nor CalArts turned out to be the right place to study. After several years working and earning credits at Los Angeles City College, he enrolled in the BFA program at Otis, LA’s classical fine arts college. There he studied with his long-time mentor in figure drawing, the self-taught Charles White (1918-1979), an African-American artist best known for his WPA murals, as well as with artist Betye Saar, whose assemblages and collages incorporated ritual cosmologies from the Asian and African Diaspora.

… Many of his early pictures, such as A Portrait of the Artist as a Shadow of His Former Self (1980), address issues of his “invisibility” as a black man. Playing on “blackface” stereotypes and referring to Ralph Ellison’s searing 1952 novel of racial violence of the same title, in Invisible Man (1986) the naked black figure is barely distinguishable against the black background except for the gleaming whites of his eyes and toothy grin.

Untitled (Painter), 2008. Acrylic on PVC panel

This mask-like uniformity of the faces in almost all of Marshall’s paintings highlights his shortcomings. Mindful perhaps of artist Jacob Lawrence (1917-2000), whose Migration Series paintings (1940-1941) chronicled the historical experience of African-Americans as they moved by the millions out of the South, Marshall similarly gives his faces the barest of detail.

But whereas Lawrence placed his blank-faced figures within a political and historical context to show them as representative of a movement not of individuals but of masses, in Marshall’s case such a broader, more developed consciousness is absent. Thus, the uniformity of the faces tends to blunt empathy, and undermine their “realism,” not just in a formal sense.

The relative strength of Marshall’s work remains its empathetic, concrete and imaginative depiction of working class life, which he attempts to situate artistically within the tradition of Western European figurative painting. For example, the Garden Series paintings allude, among other things, to the tradition of idyllic imagined landscapes in the manner of such painters as French Rococo muralist Jean-Antoine Watteau (1684-1721), in order to comment on the illusory nature of these urban “gardens.”

Cuban painter Wilfredo Lam exhibition

This video from London, England says about itself:

24 December 2016

Art historian Julian Stallabrass visits the Wifredo Lam exhibition at Tate Modern and analyses the life, artistic influences, work, and legacy of the Cuban painter.

New Hieronymus Bosch film, review

This 2016 video is the trailer of the film EXHIBITION ON SCREEN – The Curious World of Hieronymus Bosch.

It says about itself:

Who was Hieronymus Bosch? Why do his strange and fantastical paintings resonate with art lovers now more than ever? How does he bridge the medieval and Renaissance worlds? Where did his unconventional and timeless creations come from? Discover the answers to these questions and more with this remarkable new film from EXHIBITION ON SCREEN.

The Curious World of Hieronymus Bosch features the critically acclaimed exhibition ‘Visions of a Genius’ at the Noordbrabants Museum in the southern Netherlands, which brought the majority of Bosch’s paintings and drawings together for the first time to his home town of ‘s-Hertogenbosch and attracted almost half a million art lovers from all over the world.

With his fascinating life revealed plus the details and stories within his works seen like never before, don’t miss this cinematic exploration of a great creative genius.

I went to see this film on 17 December 2016.

An earlier film, Jheronimus Bosch, Touched by the devil, had as its main theme the complex preparations for having the exhibition to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the death of the painter in the North Brabant Museum in Den Bosch, the city where he was born and worked.

The new film was finished after the exhibition in Den Bosch. It shows images of the paintings, drawings and spectators in the museum. And images of Bosch’s works, sometimes zooming in on details. Or scans, showing that Bosch sometimes painted over parts of earlier versions.

Art experts explain in the film what, according to them, Bosch meant to say in his works. He must have been an avid reader, as some of his work is based on texts and pictures from books. The interviewees point out allusions to Biblical stories or medieval traditions which are not obvious to 21st century spectators. However, what Bosch really meant is a more complex issue than becomes apparent in the film.

We know more or less which art is by Bosch. We know something about his life from Den Bosch city records. However, we don’t really know about the connections between his life and his work.

There are not any writings by Bosch about how he saw his work.

Well, maybe there is one: a sentence in Latin above a drawing, about innovating oneself being better than relying on other people’s innovations. Is that Latin sentence by Bosch? We don’t know. We don’t know Hieronymus Bosch’s handwriting.

The film says that Bosch was an innovator compared to the late medieval artistic status quo, as he introduced phantasy into his work. They might have said as well that he was one of the first artists to depict common people; not just Jesus, angels and people at the top of political or church hierarchies.

The film does say that Bosch lived in turbulent times, but does not dwell extensively upon that.

Alan Woods points out that Bosch’s turbulent times reflect in his art. One year after Bosch died, Martin Luther started the religious Reformation. Already before that, the stability of feudal society had been undermined: by the Black Death plague, by wars, by persecution of ‘witches’, by the rise of the urban bourgeoisie which eventually became rivals of the nobility and Roman Catholic clergy ruling classes.

Woods writes that Bosch sharply criticized the powers that be. Bosch’s art says that in choosing between good, leading to paradise, and evil, leading to hell, also many religious and political authorities choose evil and should burn in hell. Among his many depictions of priests, monks and nuns, not one shows these religious people in a favourable light.

Jeroen Bosch, detail of the Garden of earthly delights

This detail of Bosch’s Garden of earthly delights shows a nun with a pig’s body. On the left of the detail is a being, half fantasy animal, half noble knight. A criticism on behalf of the urban bourgeoisie to which Bosch belonged, of the aristocratic and clerical ruling classes?

Bosch’s Hay Wain, as the film The Curious World of Hieronymus Bosch says, depicts greedy people on the way to hell. It does mention that the pope, the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire and kings are among these sinners. But it does not say that Bosch may criticize the clerical and secular powers that be in that.

The film shows Bosch’s painting The Ship of Fools, and comments on it. The film says that people boarding the ship of fools will sail to hell. However, a monk and nuns are prominent passengers on the ship. The film does not comment on that.

Jheronimus Bosch, Ship of fools

The art experts in the film give the impression that Bosch was part of the social and religious establishment. That an art critic of Rupert Murdoch‘s daily The Times says so in the film could more or less be expected. It is a pity that other interviewees don’t examine arguments for the theory, unnamed in the film, that Bosch was a critic of the establishment.

Nevertheless, an interesting film, worth seeing.