Rembrandt Revival in Amsterdam

Detail from La Terrasse de la Villa Brancas, 1876, Félix Bracquemond courtesy of Museum Rembrandhuis

The Rembrandthuis in Amsterdam, former home of Rembrandt, offers visitors an exhibition of etchings inspired by Rembrandt’s prints. The exhibition focuses on the Rembrandt Revival. This revival of etching and printmaking started around 1850 and lasted till roughly 1930.

Art historian Neeke Fraenkel-Schoorl recently donated her collection of nearly 400 prints and 200 pieces of graphic art to the museum. She started collecting while still a student. She was especially interested in collecting works by Whistler and other artists belonging to the Rembrandt Revival. A selection from her collection is now displayed next etchings by Rembrandt.

In the museum’s two exhibition spaces, visitors come across works by Berthe Morisot, Mary Cassatt, Käthe Kollwitz, Edouard Manet, James Abbott McNeill Whistler, Francis Seymour Haden, Anders Zorn, Felix Bracquemont and contemporaries. The Rembrandt Revival was an international movement.

After Rembrandt’s death, interest in etching as an original form of printmaking had nearly completely vanished. This changed when artists from the Barbizon School like Daubigny became interested in etching and printing and new techniques and inventions became available. A collectors market started and artists printing limited editions ensured prints started to fetch higher prices.

The prints by Rembrandt which influenced many of the later artists are his Reading Girl and The Three Trees. The latter etching was immensely popular and regularly exhibited at the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris.

Like Rembrandt, artists of the Rembrandt Revival experimented and innovated. Many works show challenging compositions, extreme contrasts between light and dark, as well as the use of various etching and printing techniques. Like Rembrandt, the artists also experimented using different types of paper.

One of several new developments was a technical improvement of plates in 1857. Where Rembrandt used copper plates, the technical improvement allowed a very thin coating of iron to be added to a copper plate. This made lines etched on such plates more durable.

This ensured a greater number of rich, burred, impressions could be produced. Francis Seymour Haden and his brother-in-law James McNeill Whistler were among the first to use this new development. Visitors come across a few nice prints by both artists, including Whistler’s Billingsgate and a print of the Thames by Haden.

However, one of the most stunning prints remains Félix Bracquemond’s “La terrasse de la Villa Brancas” (1876). It shows the artist’s wife sitting in the shade, ready to continue with her drawing of her sister who is sitting on the sunny terrace protecting her face from the sun using an umbrella. The brilliantly captured contrasts between sunny and darker parts continue in the background, showing a villa and woods in Sèvres.

On selected dates, visitors may join a special hour-long etching workshop ‘Etching at Rembrandt’s Home’. Tickets must be booked in advance through the museum’s website. The museum explains that “during this workshop, participants will make their own version of an etching from the exhibition by experimenting with the drypoint technique, various colors and different types of paper. Participants will print their etching on the museum’s large etching press and take home their own limited-edition work of art. The workshop is suitable for adults and children from 6 years old.”   Kate Deni  21st July 2022

This interesting and inspiring exhibition runs till 30th of October 2022