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SAM on Paper: Rembrandt’s Etchings

Mar 27 2024 – Ongoing

Seattle Art Museum

Fourth Floor Galleries

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SAM highlights its collection of Old Master prints and drawings with a selection of etchings by the Dutch artist Rembrandt van Rijn (1606–1669). A towering figure in seventeenth-century Baroque art, Rembrandt’s career unfolded over a period of tremendous prosperity in the Dutch Republic, a loose confederation of provinces whose economy was driven by international trade with Asia, whose population was dominated by a powerful merchant class, and whose art market teemed with wealthy private patrons. Rembrandt’s works—at once literal, humanistic, penetrating, and dramatic—appealed to the tastes of this bourgeois public.

Rembrandt counted among his clients a number of connoisseurs who favored the graphic arts, and his oeuvre includes some three hundred prints. He was a pioneer of etching at a time when most artists practiced engraving, and his innovations in the medium are without precedent. His approach to printmaking was that of a draughtsman, for he manipulated his plates with fluid lines, intricate cross-hatchings, and the strategic application of acid to achieve subtle tonality, atmosphere, and light effects. Using his dual powers of observation and imagination, he captured the essence and immediacy of his subjects, and he created compositions that—whether portrait, genre scene, landscape, or Biblical narrative—unfold thematically on a human scale.

Image: The Presentation in the Temple, ca. 1639, Rembrandt van Rijn, Dutch, 1606-1669, etching and drypoint, 8 3/8 x 11 7/16 in. (21.3 x 29 cm), Norman and Amelia Davis Collection, 60.106

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