“Artists have been looking at Rembrandt’s drawings for 300 years. Thousands and thousands of remarkable drawings have been made since, but we are not yet done looking at Rembrandt’s. There is a life stirring in them.” —ROBERT HENRI
It’s no coincidence that the greatest painters in history were also the greatest masters of line. How do the two relate you might ask? Aren’t the two techniques (or methods) completely and succinctly different? Yes, is the answer. Then how can one possibly be linked to the other?
Rembrandt knew . . .
It’s about Seeing.
Not unlike all the other Old Masters who were trained or self-taught, Rembrandt’s true gift was in his vision. His artistic ability to See; to see that all the very basic and fundamental precepts are the same: light, shadow, form, tones, values, perspective, and the rendering of any subject matter within a given space— does not change. It is simply a matter of Seeing it differently through the lens of line and interpreting it accordingly.
Rembrandt also knew that the true importance of line lies in the fact that it is the ultimate metaphor— by itself it does not exist in nature. The challenge of line is in the translation of form, light, texture and atmosphere by the use of a single hatch next to another, over another, repeated thousands of times in a single drawing. For Rembrandt, (as with any fine master of line) there was no end to the challenge and exploration of the sensitivity of line and its many and varied applications as applied to almost any subject matter he chose.
Rembrandt knew because Rembrandt could See.
There’s a reason that we never get tired of looking at this great painter’s line work: like his paintings— there is life stirring in them.
For the visual artist, the study of Rembrandt’s line work is essential to the development of the artist’s vision.
Look at them closely and you might See it too . . .
Note: The Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, CA has one of the world’s best and largest anthologies of Rembrandt’s etchings in their permanent collection.