Rembrandt Art Arrives in LA

For some, when the name "Rembrandt" is mentioned, images of sparkling white teeth from the popular Rembrandt© toothpaste brand come to mind.  Yet for art connoisseurs the world over, the name Rembrandt represents a masterful Dutch painter/etcher who helped shape European art history.

Ordinarily, in order to view the master's now priceless works of art, one must travel to Europe, most notably Florence, Italy. However, for a limited engagement, artwork skillfully sketched by Rembrandt and his many pupils can be viewed at the J. Paul Getty Museum.

The exhibit is entitled "Drawings by Rembrandt and His Pupils: Telling the Difference." It started December 8, 2009, and will come to a close on February 28, 2010.

At first glance, one might wonder if the old adage is true. Has the student really grown greater than the teacher? After all, the point of the exhibit is to spot differences between the master and his pupils.

Yet after careful study of paint strokes and scrutinizing the various drawing styles, it becomes evident that the teacher is indeed the superior artist.

Why the confusion? It is interesting to note that in Rembrandt's time in the 17th century, it was common practice for artists to omit a signature in their work.

The answer also lies in Rembrandt's teaching style. Rather than have students work from their own imaginations, Rembrandt instructed them to learn by copying his drawings exactly. He would also have his students sketch the exact same models and landscapes from similar, if not identical, vantage points.

An example of this can be found in his drawing "Three Studies of a Bearded Man on Crutches and a Woman" in comparison to student Ferdinand Bol's "Three Studies of an Old Man in a High Fur Cap". Both are remarkably similar and yet careful examination shows Rembrandt's skillful technique of handling the pen to create clearer, exact lines on the man's face. He also implements more technique to suggest texture on the hat.

Despite the many similarities, scholars are able to indentify Rembrandt's pieces due to his "handling of line, rendering of expressions and gestures, and description of light," according to a museum brochure.

Although scholars have made great strides in distinguishing similarities and differences between Rembrandt and his pupils, there is still great work to be done. The exhibit ends with unnamed works of art that have yet to be identified as genuine or imitation.

Head over to the J. Paul Getty Museum before February 28 to try and spot the differences or just enjoy the master's work.