ALAS­TAIR SMART SHOW OF THE WEEK

The Mail on Sunday - Event - - ART -

Even an ex­hi­bi­tion of half a dozen Rem­brandt paint­ings would prob­a­bly be in­un­dated with visi­tors, such a guar­an­teed tick­et­seller is the Dutch Mas­ter.

Credit to the Scot­tish Na­tional Gallery, then, for com­ing up with a wholly orig­i­nal idea for a Rem­brandt show: the im­pact he has had in Bri­tain over the cen­turies.

The story starts in Rem­brandt’s own life­time, in 1629, when Charles I’s en­voy in the Nether­lands, Sir Robert Kerr, was left awestruck by three works he saw by the (then lit­tle-known, twen­tysome­thing) painter. He pur­chased them im­me­di­ately as gifts for his King.

It took un­til the early 18th cen­tury, though, for Rem­brandt­ma­nia to strike. Bri­tish aris­to­crats sud­denly started buy­ing up can­vas after can­vas with aban­don. Many of the fa­mous Rem­brandts in our pub­lic col­lec­tions to­day came to Bri­tain in that pe­riod: the Na­tional Gallery’s Bels­haz­zar’s Feast, for ex­am­ple.

This ex­hi­bi­tion, which opened as part of the Ed­in­burgh Art Fes­ti­val, con­sid­ers the Dutch­man’s im­pres­sion not just on col­lec­tors but on artists too. Por­trai­ture in this coun­try was es­pe­cially af­fected by the likes of Al­lan Ram­say, Thomas Lawrence and oth­ers as­pir­ing to Rem­brandt’s sense of in­for­mal­ity.

The show fea­tures 150 works – by both its star and his Bri­tish fol­low­ers – and it seems there has barely been an era when the for­mer wasn’t pop­u­lar.

Sadly, the cu­ra­tors don’t re­ally sug­gest a rea­son why Rem­brandt should have been so favoured in Bri­tain, of all places. But there are enough mas­ter­pieces from the Royal Col­lec­tion and else­where to make this show a hit.

As Rem­brandt shows in­vari­ably are.

Bels­haz­zar’s Feast, 1635. Below: self­por­trait and Girl At A Win­dow, 1645

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