Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Visual Food for Thought week 5 - self portrait by Rembrandt van Rijn

One of the many patterns that a viewer can observe in art is the making and re-making of self portraits by certain artists. Some of us barely make them ,while others make it a weekly habit (I know a few of those myself)! As for me, there is one master whose portraits I could stare at for hours on end, and that's...Rembrandt.
I went to the Frick about a month ago (you can read about it here ) and came across this one, entitled Self Portrait 1658. For me, Rembrandt's portraits have something really special about them. Whether it's himself or another subject, the figures pull you into their world. There's a few ways that he makes this happen. First and foremost, his eyes. You can never really tell from a photograph, but when you stand in front of this picture, the soulfulness, the age, understanding, and regrets of life come through his eyes.

Secondly, the luminosity of his figure against a warm, dark background makes him look so living, as if hes captured  little bit of his own body temperature and stuck it between the folds of his garments. While some artists have shied away from showing the signs of age in their portraits, Rembrandt gives you a (seemingly) honest look of his features. While he is quite stately, his face shows the signs of a life fully lived, with imperfections in the skin and even a light scar on his cheek. His hands are not smooth like a young mans, but angular. He is even holding what looks like a walking stick, a true sign of well earned age.

This painting alone is worth making a trip down to the Frick! If your not in New york, try finding some dutch master works in your local museum (if you have one). If not that, look online!

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