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Wadsworth to Showcase First Rembrandts in Hartford Since 1940
Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (1606- 1669), Self Portrait, 1659.
HARTFORD, CT.- Seven of Rembrandt’s most expressive portraits will be on view in a new exhibition, entitled Rembrandt’s People, opening this fall at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art. The exhibition will feature Rembrandt’s powerful figure paintings, which are hailed as his greatest artistic achievement. Borrowed from leading museums in both America and Canada and two private collections, Rembrandt’s People will bring the first authentic Rembrandt paintings to Hartford in almost 70 years. The exhibition will showcase works from throughout the artist’s career, including his iconic Self Portrait from 1659. Rembrandt’s People opens October 10, 2009 and is on view through January 24, 2010.

Rembrandt’s People is the first exhibition in the Wadsworth’s Masterpiece Series, which will take place over the next two years and consist of small, dossier exhibitions that will bring some of the world’s greatest art to Hartford and highlight the depth of the Wadsworth’s permanent collection. The next exhibition, Reunited Couples, will reunite several of the Wadsworth’s paintings with their pendants now located in other museums around the world, allowing visitors to better appreciate how these works were originally conceived and how the artists subtly adjusted one picture to complement the other.

Rembrandt’s People will feature nine paintings, encouraging visitors to look closely at Rembrandt’s most expressive portraits. “Rembrandt was already recognized during the seventeenth century for his unusual powers of observation,” said Dr. Eric Zafran, the Susan Morse Hilles Curator of European Art at the Wadsworth, who organized the exhibition. “Whether they are commissioned portraits, imaginary portraits, self-portraits, or depictions of his family and friends in Amsterdam, each of these works reveal the artist’s distinctive, insightful style, presenting human beings that connect across the centuries in a direct way with the viewer.”

“What distinguishes these particular portraits by Rembrandt,” Zafran added, “is their outward realism and the artist’s ability to evoke his subject’s inner spiritual being. In particular, Rembrandt’s use of paint to create light and atmosphere focuses our concentration on his subject’s faces and truly illuminates the vulnerable humanity of these figures.”

Each painting in the exhibition has its own significance, but particularly outstanding is Rembrandt’s powerful Self Portrait, which he painted at age fifty-three. On loan from the National Gallery in Washington, the portrait depicts a man whose life and career are in decline, but who still presents a determined attitude.

In addition to the self portrait, Rembrandt’s People will present a range of iconic portraits including Rembrandt’s depiction of a humble young Jewish man (ca. 1663), on loan from the Kimbell Art Museum, to the well-dressed Lady with a Lap Dog (ca. 1662), from the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, which has recently been restored to fully reveal its lively broad strokes of red paint.

The Wadsworth’s own connection to Rembrandt has been elusive and debate over the authenticity of “Rembrandt” paintings continues within the art world. Included in the exhibition are two portrait paintings originally acquired by the Wadsworth as Rembrandts, but both attributed by later research to the “School of Rembrandt.” The exhibition of these two paintings along side their authentic counterparts will enable visitors to make direct comparisons between Rembrandt’s own work and that of his studio.

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