Within the bustle of colourful Greenmarket Square – car engines, lively chatter, hooters and moving traffic – is perfect serenity. Step out of 21st Century Cape Town and into 17th Century Dutch Golden Age, with more than 100 works by revered Dutch artist Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669), that demonstrate the method of his etching processes.
Hosted by Iziko Museums of South Africa, Rembrandt in South Africa: Pioneer Printmaker of Humanity and Modernity is the first-ever national exhibition of Rembrandt’s etchings. It attempts to bring together as many of the master’s etchings in the public and private collections as possible. He is considered one of the greatest painters and printmakers in European art and the most important in Dutch history, so the opportunity to view his work in my home town is something special. The exhibition is detailed, factual and beautifully displayed in the Old Town House, a gorgeous National Monument that I’ve walked past many a time, but didn’t know existed.
In his paintings, Rembrandt made use of chiaroscuro to give his subjects a more spiritual and introspective quality, and this use of light and shadow is similarly evident in his etchings. Tiny, with fine attention to detail, the work makes it hard not to be impressed by the skill and workmanship. Not only is this exhibition an opportunity for art fans to experience the works of an Old Master, it offers an opportunity to learn about Rembrandt as a man through his works – a doting husband to Saskia and loving father, a man with a sense of humour, certain vanity and religious leanings.
The etchings include works from Rembrandt’s specific themes: Story of Jesus Christ, Death of the Virgin Mary, Landscapes, Self Portraits, Portraits of Saskia, Rembrandt’s Mother, and the Passion of the Christ. Take a selfie with a replicated self-portrait of a young Rembrandt (oh the irony) and walk the marbled floors before facing your own modernity.
Where Michaelis Collection at the Old Town House, Greenmarket Square, CBD
When 3 October 2014 – 28 March 2015
Trading Hours Open daily from 10 am to 5 pm, closed on Sundays and public holidays
Cost R20, R10 for students and pensioners on Fridays
Contact +27 21 481 3965/21 467 7245, www.iziko.org.za
Photographs Lisa Wallace, courtesy