Auerbach – Rembrandt: Raw Truth runs until March 16th

Auerbach – Rembrandt: Raw Truth runs until March 16th

Rembrandt van Rijn is the inspiration of many artists and the curators at the Rijksmuseum love this. They frequently draw attention to these dialogues in art and that is why the show Rembrandt – Auerbach: Raw Truth should not come as such a surprise. Paintings by Frank Auerbach are exhibited in the newly opened Rijksmuseum and hang right opposite the Rembrandt works in question in the museum's Gallery of Honour. 

Auerbach, one of the most important painters in Britain since WWII, became fascinated by the way Rembrandt painted in the early 1960s. It was especially Rembrandt’s subject matter that Auerbach admired. Rembrandt, in Auerbach’s opinion, painted ‘the raw truth’ and thus captured the essence of his subjects.
Auerbach emulated this in his paintings from that period. The Rijksmuseum exhibits these opposite Rembrandt’s paintings. The show includes Auerbach’s Primrose Hill, Spring Sunshine, painted between 1961 and 1964, The Sitting Room (1964-1965), Head of E.O.W. (1964), Head of E.O.W. II (1964) as well as Primrose Hill, Summer Sunshine (1964) and Primrose Hill, Winter Sunshine (1962-1964). 

The paintings by Rembrandt that are part of this exhibition include The Syndics of the Drapers’ Guild, Self-Portrait of the Apostle Paul, The Jewish Bride and Titus dressed as a Monk.

The British painter often used to work on his paintings for years on end, in search of the essence of the subject, endlessly refining the outcome of his sessions time and again. “The result is works with an almost sculptured structure of paint that is reminiscent of Rembrandt’s later works. However, for Auerbach this impasto was not the objective itself; for him it was only a by-product of the search for the raw truth”, the museum surmises in a press release. 

Auerbach himself was once quoted as saying “Good paintings attack fact from an unfamiliar point of view. They’re bound to look genuine and in someway rawly and actively repellent, disturbing and itchy and not right.” That is good to keep in mind when you head to this exhibition.

London’s Ordovasart gallery also ran a show of Rembrandt’s art in connection with Auerbach late last year, when Jackie Wullschlager of the Financial Times explained what the two great artists have in common. “They use thick, sticky paint to build up rich surfaces which look fluid, spontaneous, alive, yet are underpinned by strong structural scaffolds. They share muted earthy palettes – but as light emerges from dark tonalities, their paintings are radiant.” 

Aside from what it is that the two painters share, there are also dissonances, believes the FT art critic. “Auerbach’s “The Sitting Room”, a rigorously composed interior recalling Braque or Cézanne rather than Rembrandt,” Wullschlager points out.

Rembrandt’s work probably has in a roundabout way influenced those artists to some degree too. Since the Rijksmuseum first opened its doors way back in 1885, among the  various artists known to have studied Rembrandt in depth, are Vincent van Gogh, who apparently visited often to admire The Jewish Bride by Rembrandt, Anselm Kiefer, who had a thing with the Night Watch and Degas.   

Rembrandt – Auerbach: Raw Truth runs until March 16th, 2014. The museum is located in central Amsterdam and within walking distance of most of Amsterdam Apartment's accommodations.