CLEVELAND (January 23, 2012) – The Cleveland Museum of Art presents Rembrandt in America, the first major exhibition to explore how the desire for Rembrandt paintings by American collectors has fueled research about the artist's work. The groundbreaking exhibition contains over 50 works, with about 30 autograph paintings by Rembrandt van Rijn, the largest number of the artist's authentic paintings assembled from American collections in a century. Additional works on view in the exhibition were thought to be by the renowned Dutch artist when they entered American collections, but their attributions can no longer be maintained. Rembrandt in America therefore also offers a survey of Rembrandt as a painter and as a master, including works produced by his studio and a broader network of adapters, followers, and copyists.
The artwork comes from private collections and more than two dozen American art museums, including some of Rembrandt's finest masterpieces from the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Organized and presented by the North Carolina Museum of Art, the Cleveland Museum of Art, and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Rembrandt in America will be on view at the Cleveland Museum of Art from February 19 through May 28, 2012.
Rembrandt in America considers the history of Rembrandt collecting in the United States, beginning when wealthy Americans cultivated a passion for collecting European Old Masters. Americans including J. Paul Getty, Andrew Mellon, and George Eastman desired these works of art as trophies for their collections, precipitating a collecting frenzy that drew Rembrandt paintings from European collections in substantial numbers for America. In the highly competitive and lucrative market, many of the pictures that came to the United States were optimistically attributed to Rembrandt by scholars and art dealers. In many respects, America became the proving ground for new Rembrandt discoveries and reattributions.
"Rembrandt in America examines the arc of Rembrandt's career and acknowledges his prolific workshop by engaging museum visitors in a process of comparing and contrasting the artworks," stated Jon Seydl, the Paul J. and Edith Ingalls Vignos, Jr. curator of European paintings and sculpture, 1500–1800, at the Cleveland Museum of Art. "Audiences will witness an unprecedented number of authentic Rembrandt paintings, but will have the chance to explore why some works attributed to him have been reconsidered."
While the primary focus of Rembrandt in America is on the history of Rembrandt collecting and connoisseurship as it relates to his works residing in America, the show also explores his work across various genres, his artistic evolution, and his influence on other artists of the day. Included in the exhibition are a number of important portraits from Rembrandt's early career in Amsterdam as the city's most sought-after portrait painter, as well as character studies, historical and biblical scenes, and three of his most celebrated self-portraits.
Unique to the Cleveland exhibition is a gallery where visitors may examine Rembrandt's 1635 Portrait of a Woman using a variety of scientific tools. Portrait of a Woman has long been understood as a work with considerable condition problems. Past restorations have solved some of the issues, but in a few cases, treatments obscured more than they revealed about the painting. As a result, the attribution has been contested and the current condition has hindered the ability to see the picture properly.
The walls of the gallery will feature high-resolution images of the painting under different lighting conditions, including ultraviolet, infrared, and x-ray, allowing visitors to examine each approach independently, and to consider the role that technical analysis plays in evaluating Old Master paintings. There will also be an interactive table that will allow for more personal discovery and manipulation of the tools.
Additional highlights of Rembrandt in America include:
Lucretia, 1666. From the collection of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, this work ranks as one of the most moving and powerful images ever produced by Rembrandt. The Roman heroine is depicted a moment after she plunges a dagger into her heart, in transition from life to death.
Portrait of the Reverend Johannes Elison and Portrait of Maria Bockenolle, 1634. The recently cleaned pair of portraits of the Rev. Johannes Elison and his wife Maria Bockenolle from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston were painted during Rembrandt's early years as a successful portrait painter in Amsterdam. They are the only full-length portraits by Rembrandt in the United States.
Portrait of Marten Looten, 1632. From the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, this work is among Rembrandt's earliest portraits of an identified sitter; the sheet of paper in the painting bears the sitter's name, Rembrandt's monogram and a date of either 11 or 12 of January, 1632.
Self-Portrait, 1659. Some of the most remarkable works of the Dutch master's later years were his self-portraits. In the work from the National Gallery of Art in Washington, Rembrandt's direct gaze reveals within a single image a complex range of human emotion.
Portrait of Joris de Caulerij, 1632. This work, coming from the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, portrays a distinguished gentleman and displays Rembrandt's masterful handling of light and texture. It is one of Rembrandt's most distinctive early Amsterdam portraits and notable for its warm, glowing background.
The Operation (Touch), c. 1624/25. Thought to be one of Rembrandt's earliest works, this is a panel from what was likely a series of the five allegories of the senses. Probably painted in Leiden, near the end of his apprenticeship with Jacob van Swanenburgh and before his journeyman's study with Pieter Lastman, this work shows Rembrandt's early hand, before he became the Rembrandt we know.
Also displayed in the exhibition are other paintings that were previously attributed to Rembrandt when they first entered American collections and have since been credited to his studio, pupils, and his contemporaries, including Jan Lievensz and Govaert Flinck, among others. By highlighting a number of works misattributed to Rembrandt, as well as a handful of paintings for which scholarly opinion has wavered over the years, this exhibition empowers viewers to develop their own skills in connoisseurship.
Considered one of the most important painters in the history of European art, Rembrandt van Rijn (1606–1669) is renowned for his ability to depict light and shadow, to capture the emotions of his sitters, and to breathe new life into historical, mythological, and religious stories. He was born in 1606 in Leiden, in the Dutch Republic, now the Netherlands, and spent most of his career in Amsterdam.
Adult tickets for Rembrandt in America are $14, seniors and college students $12, children ages 6–17 $7, children 5 and under are free. The exhibition is free for museum members. The museum is planning complementary programming including a symposium, lectures, films, and musical performances. More programming information will be available at clevelandart.org  closer to the opening of the exhibition.
Rembrandt in America is accompanied by a 240-page catalog authored by Dennis P. Weller, Tom Rassieur, and George S. Keyes, former chief curator at the Detroit Institute of Arts. An introduction focusing on Rembrandt as a cultural phenomenon is followed by essays devoted to his life, the controversies associated with his workshop, and the pursuit of Rembrandt in America. Published by Skira Rizzoli, the catalog contains 150 color illustrations and is available in hardback and paperback.
The exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities. Additional support provided by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation. In Cleveland, the exhibition is sponsored by AkzoNobel, makers of Glidden™ paint. Additional support provided by KeyBank.
Complementing Rembrandt in America at the Cleveland Museum of Art is Rembrandt Prints from The Morgan Library & Museum, which also runs February 19 to May 28 in the Prints and Drawings Galleries. This exhibition will display 60 Rembrandt etchings, exploring the artist's long and prolific career as a printmaker. From about 1626 to about 1661, Rembrandt executed some 370 prints that demonstrate that he was not only a gifted painter and superb draftsman but also an extremely experimental and original printmaker. Unlike his predecessors, who sought to achieve a standardized representation of the printed image with little variation from impression to impression, Rembrandt was inclined to experiment. By varying the support and how the plate was inked, he achieved an array of effects so that impressions from the same plate differ significantly.
Rembrandt's prints cover a wide range of subjects, including Old and New Testament narratives, landscapes, portraits and self-portraits, nudes, and scenes from daily life. He sometimes returned to the same theme, allowing for a comparison of a subject executed decades apart, illustrating his artistic development and experimental advances. Rembrandt's prints are some of the best ever made—evidence of a genius who exploited technical means for expressive purposes. Rembrandt Prints from The Morgan Library & Museum is curated by Jane Glaubinger, Cleveland Museum of Art curator of prints.
Rembrandt in America is organized by the Cleveland Museum of Art, the North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. The exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities. Additional support provided by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation.
In Cleveland, the exhibition is sponsored by AkzoNobel, makers of Glidden™ paint. Additional support provided by KeyBank. Educational programs are supported in part by the Harold C. Schott Foundation.