Finding Inspiration in Rembrandt

The master artist Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn has made some of the most moving and innovative works of art in history. He has done paintings, sketches, and prints about a range of subjects from portraits to landscapes and even mythological themes.

But Harvard Art Museums has newly acquired one of Rembrandt's early drawings, the "Four Studies of Male Heads", which would show a more intimate side of the artist's hand.

“The impressionists, and many 19th-century artists such as James McNeill Whistler, looked to Rembrandt as a model,” said Elizabeth and John Moors Cabot Director of the Harvard Art Museums Martha Tedeschi on a recent afternoon in the museums’ airy Art Study Center. “Vincent van Gogh called Rembrandt a magician and pointed to his ability to capture mysterious aspects of the human psyche and human life in a way that words in any language couldn’t. Many found him to have a kind of depth, a perception that was incredibly rare.”
For Tedeschi, as for many other art enthusiasts, drawings hold special appeal. Unlike paintings, where an artist’s early composition or color choice may have been obscured by layers of oil added over time, in a drawing one can see clearly “the direct connection between the decisions being made by the artist and the hand,” said Tedeschi. “For me that’s why drawings are so special, particularly when you are looking at a Rembrandt drawing like this, where his process is laid bare.”

(Image credit: Rembrandt/Wikimedia Commons)

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