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Drawings by Rembrandt, his students and circle on view at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Rembrandt van Rijn (Dutch, 1606-1669), Four Studies of Male Heads, c. 1636. Brown ink and brown wash on antique laid paper. Maida and George Abrams Collection, Boston, Massachusetts. Photo credit: Allan Macintyre© President and Fellows of Harvard.

HOUSTON, TX.- A selection of works from one of the world’s finest private collections of Dutch drawings are presented in the Audrey Jones Beck Galleries at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, beginning April 15. Selected from the collection assembled by George and Maida Abrams over five decades, the exhibition includes nine works by Rembrandt as well as nearly fifty sheets by his pupils and followers, including examples never before exhibited or published. The exhibition was originally organized by the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, Connecticut.

Drawings by Rembrandt, His Students and Circle from the Maida and George Abrams Collection reveals the expressive mastery and dazzling freedom of Rembrandt’s pen drawings and investigates the character and use of individual drawings, from figure studies made from life, to finished drawings composed in the studio to landscape studies executed en plein air on the artist’s walks outside Amsterdam. The exhibition and its catalogue also explore the functions of drawings in Rembrandt’s studio and their relationship to his teaching practices. Some drawings by Rembrandt’s students and followers seem to have been assignments, for example, in how best and most accurately to convey the narrative drama of a historical subject. Others clearly were life studies designed to train the eye and hand, ranging from preparatory to more finished works, be it another drawing, print or a painting. And still other works were topographic studies or records of travel and novelties to be consulted in the future. Nevertheless, all of the works in this exhibition achieve the expressive power associated with Rembrandt’s mastery.

“These beautiful seventeenth-century drawings by Rembrandt and his students are superb in quality,” said MFAH director Gary Tinterow. “It is a coup for the MFAH to display nearly 60 of these works from the Abrams Collection.”

“This exhibition marks the first time drawings by Rembrandt and his circle have ever been shown exclusively in Houston,” said Dena Woodall, MFAH Assistant Curator of Prints and Drawings. “While offering the public a chance to see one of the most important groups of Dutch drawings collected in the past half century, it also opens a window into seventeenth-century Holland and the thought process of Rembrandt and his school.”

In addition to Rembrandt’s works, the exhibition will include sheets by his pupils and associates, including Ferdinand Bol, Gerbrand van den Eeckhout, Govert Flinck, Abraham Furnerius, Arent de Gelder, Samuel van Hoogstraten, Jan Lievens, Nicolas Maes, Roelant Roghman, and Pieter de With, as well as an anonymous follower of the master. Although not all of these artists are documented as Rembrandt’s students, the biographies of the individual artists present evidence for their connection with him. Additionally, the exhibition catalogue and interpretive material address the difficult issues of connoisseurship in this field.

The exceptional breadth of the Abrams collection enables the exploration of the diversity and parameters of Rembrandt’s style, including not only compositional and figure studies, but also landscapes, and chalk as well as ink drawings. Of particular interest among the figure studies are Rembrandt’s Old Man with a Walking Stick, a drawing that captures the stooped form and shuffling gait of his elderly subject with the greatest of graphic economy, and the vivid characterization of Four Studies of Male Heads. The exhibition also offers an opportunity for in-depth analysis of the drawing styles of individual masters, such as Jan Lievens, Govert Flinck, Nicolaes Maes and Roelant Roghman. The collection permits fascinating comparisons, for example, between Flinck and Backer, who must have sat side by side as they sketched female nudes in the studio.

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