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Saturday 06.02.07

« Weekend Events | Main | Sam the creative politician man? »

Dutch Treat: Rembrandt opens today at PAM

Rembrandt's Self-Portrait as St. Paul (detail)

Generally, we cover contemporary art here but it goes without saying that Rembrandt, as the premier post-Italian renniasance western humanist artist (rivaled only by Shakespeare and Beethoven) transcends his period. In fact, he's a great deal more famous/influentual now than when he died in 1669.

I'll spare you all the fluff you will be bombarded with about the Portland Art Museum's show titled Rembrandt and the Golden Age of Dutch Art. It's comprised of works from the Rijksmuseum while that rock of western culture is rennovated, so lucky us. If you dont live here, it's a good time to visit as this is also the only West Coast stop and the weather is great...

Yes, the show contains Rembrandt's, "Self-Portait as the Apostle Paul." Arguably his greatest self portrait, I could write 10,000 words on it just off the top of my head... 5,000 alone about the way the tip the nose is painted... Im not exaggerating, it's that amazing.

Also, unlike the Hesse show this isn't a one hit painting show, it's chock full of great stuff, like Rembrandt's only still life, a few Jan Steens, Franz Hals and Pieter Claesz. I even appreciate how the the show's star painting is presented right off the bat. The install plays strength against strength... "The Triumph of French Painting" show by comparison was more a study of second and third stringers. Another personal favorite here is Jacob Van Ruisdael on whom I wrote extensively on in grad school. There is something very modern about an artist that painted landscapes he had never seen first hand.

Another strength of the exhibition is the inclusion of period silversmithing, beyond being shiny they really add understanding to the show. Somewhere between the paintings and these fantastic sparkling objects a sense of wealth, civic obligations and humanistic reflection comes into focus. It foregrounds something Portland needs to consider, patronage of artists as a part of civic life and pride.

Of course there are some fun moments, mostly found in the restrained but ribald interior scenes like Jan Steen's The Sick Woman, the Dutch had their own version of the soap opera.

Beyond the show there is some analysis that should be meaningful to Portland's cultural scene and it speaks well of PAM's new director:

At the press conference Ferisso came off as bright, energetic, serious and knowledgeable about art... he plays off the crowd in an informed way and doesn't hide behind words like "masterpiece." The days of Portland's tolerance for arts leaders that don't know anything about art and aren't making strong public appearances are probably over with this guy in the top job.

Also, PAM raised $1,000,000 to put on the exhibition with support from the museum's top patrons like The Marks, Frisbees, Brantleys, Crumpackers, Hoffmans, Meiers, Schnitzers and Sondland etc.. This should surprise no one but should answer the Oregonian's fundraising questions after the Buchannan's left for San Francisco. The myth that John and Lucy Buchannan are the only people capable of major fundraising on short notice (especially after the new museum wing) in Portland has ended. Ferriso also did this without the aid of a director of development, a position that was filled by J.S. May only recently.

There are even some very cool if amusing connections between Kehinde Wiley (also on display) and Rembrandt who both have a flair for clothing as content.. though the first writer in Portland to suggest that Wiley has Old-master technique should be tickled publicly in Pioneer Square (I'd like to believe nobody will suggest it but in a world where many in the media equate realism with "old master" technique it is bound to happen). Wiley works more like a sign painter and even then he's no Rosenquist.

Posted by Jeff Jahn on June 02, 2007 at 10:39 | Comments (0)


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