"When most people think of Rembrandt, they think of his oil paintings," prints and drawings curator Dena Woodall told CultureMap on a tour of an exhibition exploring the Dutch master's work on paper at Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. "His drawings and output as a printmaker, however, had a very long-reaching effect on artists and collectors well into the 19th and 20th century."
On view in the museum's Beck Building through July 8, Drawings by Rembrandt, His Students, and Circle showcases nearly 50 works — eight of which are by the artist himself — to examine the essential role of drawing in Rembrandt's studio and its influence on his followers.
"He had an amazing way of capturing those pivotal moments of expression and emotion. Other artists were very attracted to t his manner in which he approached and portrayed life."
"This show focuses on the artist drawing the world around him," Woodall said. "These works aren't thought of as preparatory drawings for larger paintings, but were used by Rembrandt and his circle to capture everyday life."
The first of two galleries in the exhibition looks to the human form, with examples of portraits and figure studies from Rembrandt's early career in Leiden, before he relocated his studio to Amsterdam and began accepting students. The artist and his pupils tended to look for subjects in the thriving, diverse neighborhoods of Amsterdam, which teemed with activity as one of Europe's most prosperous cities during the 17th century.
"He had an amazing way of capturing those pivotal moments of expression and emotion," Woodall said, motioning to a section of Biblical and historical scenes. "Other artists were very attracted to this manner in which he approached and portrayed life."
The second gallery concentrates on landscapes drawn en plein air beyond the studio walls and the confines of bustling Amsterdam. Rembrandt and his entourage render the vast openness of the flat Dutch terrain with pops of intricately-detailed cottages and people that subtly animate the scene.
Drawings by Rembrandt, His Students, and Circle is organized by the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, Conn. and features works on paper by renowned Dutch Golden Age painters like Jacob Backer, Ferdinand Bol, Govaert Flinck, Samuel van Hoogstraten, Jan Lievens and Nicolaes Maes. The exhibit is accompanied by a full catalog published by Yale University Press.