Rembrandt: The Late Works
15 October 2014 – 18 January 2015
Organised in collaboration with Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum, the exhibition explores Rembrandt’s innovative final years.
One of the greatest painters and printmakers Europe has ever seen, Rembrandt came to prominence as a portrait artist while still in his 30s. Despite great success, Rembrandt's penchant for extravagant spending meant he was on the verge of bankruptcy by middle age. This, coupled with a string of personal tragedies – including the death of three of his children and his wife – meant his final years were characterised by intense hardship. Yet during this period his work become increasingly more expressive and profound.
Rembrandt consciously pursued a new artistic style in his late career, manipulating printing and painting techniques, and devising new and original interpretations of traditional subjects. These works would go onto influences printmakers, painters and draftsmen for many generations that followed.
Spanning from the 1650s to his death in 1669, the display features approximately 40 paintings, 20 drawings and 30 prints loaned from across international collections. Arranged thematically, it examines the ideas that preoccupied him during his late career: self-scrutiny, experimental technique, the use of light, the observation of everyday life and inspiration from other artists.
The exhibition brings together a number of self portraits Rembrandt painted throughout his life, including Self Portrait as the Apostle Paul, Self Portrait with Two Circles, Self Portrait Wearing a Turban and Self Portrait at the Age of 63. The latter two, painted in the final years of his life, show his exceptional honesty in recording his own features as he aged.
There is also a chance to see the so-called Jewish Bride, in which Rembrandt depicted a couple’s tender affection for each other. Upon viewing this painting for the first time in 1885, Vincent van Gogh confessed to a friend that he would gladly give up 10 years of his life to be able to sit in front of the painting for a fortnight with only a crust of dry bread to eat. He exclaimed in a letter to his brother Theo: 'What an intimate, what an infinitely sympathetic painting'.