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Impressive Rembrandt exhibit inspires quiet contemplation

| Monday, October 2, 2017

rembrandtWEBJOSEPH HAN | The Observer

To commemorate the 175th anniversary of the University’s founding, the Snite Museum of Art is displaying their extensive collection of original Rembrandt etchings.

Art collectors and Elkhart residents Jack and Alfrieda Feddersen first loaned the collection of Rembrandt prints to the Snite in conjunction with the museum’s new building opening in 1981. The Feddersens officially donated the collection 10 years later, and the current showing is the first fully catalogued exhibition of the entire collection. Art history professor emeritus Charles Rosenberg wrote the exhibit’s extensively detailed catalogue, which tells the story of the collection as well as explores the prints themselves, offering analysis and interpretation of each etching in the context of the religious turmoil of the Netherlands in the 1600s.

Rembrandt’s work was indeed provocative at its origin in the first half of the 17th century in the Netherlands; the intimate, emotional images of religious and biblical scenes reflect a humanity uncommon in the religious art of Rembrandt’s contemporaries. According to Costa, much of the information about an artist can be gleaned from their prints, as their diminutive size calls for a tremendous attention to detail and form — more so than in an artist’s larger paintings. From Rembrandt’s prints, visitors will gain a better understanding of a well-known artist’s very personal relationship with his religion.

Upon walking into the gallery from the main doors, visitors are greeted by “Christ Crucified Between the Two Thieves: The Three Crosses.” The large, dramatic, high-contrast print, while one of Rembrandt’s most well-known etchings, is fairly dissimilar from the rest of the prints. Although not as popular, Rembrandt’s small works are the true stars of the collection, as they draw you in and make you feel the artist’s authentic faith — which makes sense considering many of the smaller prints were commissioned for the private chapels of wealthy Dutch families. Some of the scenes in the smaller prints are remarkably loud and busy for their size while others are quiet and serene. The unifying factor is the Rembrandt’s clear mastery in his vision and techniques.

The prints are beautifully displayed, on deep burgundy walls and lit by low candlepower lighting, all contributing to an atmosphere conducive to contemplation and reflection. The framing is also very well done, with simple mismatched gold painted frames and wide white mats isolating each print while contributing to the collection’s cohesiveness. Costa encourages students to take a few moments out of their busy lives to spend whatever time they can find wandering the gallery, examining the prints with a magnifying glass or simply sitting and studying amongst the etchings. Students would certainly be remiss to skip such a monumental display.

Rembrandt’s Religious Prints: The Feddersen Collection at the Snite Museum of Art is on view until Nov. 26.

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