Gallery  September 20, 2018  Colleen Smith

Unforgettable Prints by Rembrandt now at the Denver Art Museum

Courtesy Denver Art Museum

Rembrandt van Rijn, The Three Trees, 1643. Etching, engraving and drypoint. Bibliothèque nationale de France, Department of Prints and Photography.

Courtesy Denver Art Museum

Rembrandt van Rijn, Self-Portrait in a Cap, Wide-Eyed and Open-Mouthed, about 1630. Etching and drypoint. Bibliothèque nationale de France, Department of Prints and Photography.

Rembrandt van Rijn, widely regarded as one of history’s best painters, also made about 350 exquisite prints lavish with painterly qualities. To commemorate next year’s 350th anniversary of the Dutch artist’s death, the Denver Art Museum (DAM) is exhibiting Rembrandt: Painter as Printmaker September 16, 2018, to January 6, 2019. The Mile High City is the sole venue for this exhibit co-curated by the DAM’s Timothy J. Standring and Jaco Rutgers, an independent European scholar whom the DAM director Christoph Heinrich dubbed “Mr. Rembrandt Print.”

From about 100 prints on exhibit, Standring and Rutgers agreed on a favorite: The Three Trees, an etching, engraving and drypoint piece dated 1643. In addition to sublime landscapes, the show includes Rembrandt’s portraits and self-portraits, biblical scenes and nudes, and a still life of seashells, which the artist collected. The exhibit showcases the famed Hundred Guilder Print and also rare works. A print depicting St. Jerome is one of only two known impressions. Several paintings and 17 drawings add creative context and present a multimedia overview of Rembrandt’s genius.

Courtesy Denver Art Museum

Rembrandt van Rijn, The Shell, 1650. Etching and drypoint, with touches of engraving, state 2. Bibliothèque nationale de France, Department of Prints and Photography.

Standring ranked Rembrandt with Mozart and Shakespeare.  The co-curator praised the prints’ range of values: “This is the richness of chiaroscuro. The blacks are jet black. And this show has 59 shades of gray,” Standring said. 

The majority of the works are on loan from the Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris. The exhibit also includes loans from the Louvre, the British Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art and other museums as well as private collectors. 

Rembrandt van Rijn, Self-Portrait Leaning on a Stone Sill, 1639
Courtesy Denver Art Museum

Rembrandt van Rijn, Self-Portrait Leaning on a Stone Sill, 1639. Etching, with touches of drypoint. Bibliothèque nationale de France, Department of Prints and Photography.

Rembrandt van Rijn, Adam and Eve, 1638
Courtesy Denver Art Museum

Rembrandt van Rijn, Adam and Eve, 1638. Etching. Bibliothèque nationale de France, Department of Prints and Photography.

Rembrandt van Rijn, Christ before Pilate, 1635
Courtesy Denver Art Museum

Rembrandt van Rijn, Christ before Pilate, 1635. Etching and engraving. Bibliothèque nationale de France, Department of Prints and Photography.

Rembrandt van Rijn, Self-Portrait Etching at a Window, 1648
Courtesy Denver Art Museum

Rembrandt van Rijn, Self-Portrait Etching at a Window, 1648. Etching and drypoint on Japanese paper, state 2. Bibliothèque nationale de France, Department of Prints and Photography.

Some prints display more than 3,000 marks, evidencing Rembrandt’s deft and dexterous hand. The smallest prints measure about the size of a matchbox, proof of the artist’s keen eyesight. 

Rutgers said that Rembrandt probably created the miniatures as practice pieces and likely ganged several when pulling prints. “Paper was expensive in the 17th century,” Rutgers said.

The Rembrandt prints are on nine different paper stocks. The DAM exhibit includes paper samples, as well as explanations of the intaglio printing processes.

Courtesy Denver Art Museum

Rembrandt van Rijn, Christ Preaching - The Hundred Guilder Print, about 1648. Etching, engraving and drypoint. Bibliothèque nationale de France, Department of Prints and Photography.

Heinrich described the exhibition as “striking, touching, utterly amazing.”

A longtime print gallery owner and private print dealer based in Denver, Tam O’Neill said, “Rembrandt’s prints are earthy and intimate gems not to be missed.”

About the Author

Colleen Smith

Colleen Smith is a longtime arts writer based in Denver.