Thursday, April 16, 2009

One of the very important aspects of learning fine arts is studying the work of masters. Art has been a channel to human emotions since the very ancient times. From the time when stone age men painted their caves, painting and sketching has developed into a very scientific and at the same time very graceful art. All because of the creativity and dedication of a few great men. Artists like Da Vinci, Botticelli, Blake, Van Gogh and others honed the art to bring it closer to perfection. Study of the human figure as an object for art, development of various styles of painting, depiction of abstract ideas as well as the material universe around us, making art a bearer of knowledge and sometimes the whims and fantasies of the artists using clever symbolism are some of the various aspects developed during all this time. One of my favourite artists during the renaissance age, the age when a huge paradigm shift in the art world began, is the Dutch painter and etcher, Rembrandt.
One of the main reasons why I love Rembrandt's art is his mastery over light. You see, light is the reason we can see and appreciate things around us. Thus, painting is in a way nothing but a deep study of light and its effect over objects and a quest to master it. Whatever be the painting-
watercolour or oil or charcoal, however vibrant colours you may use, however correct your propertion is, if you mess up your light effect, you mess up your painting big time. Not only had he perfected this aspect of painting, he loved to play tricks with it in his paintings. Take one of his most famous works for example- The night watch.

The first thing that comes to your mind when you see the painting is confusion- total confusion. It is a scene which depicts some musketeers embarking upon a journey, led by their captian and a lieutenent. There are three main figures in the painting- the captain, the lieutenent and a small girl. Rembrandt has cleverly used light to highlight the importance of these three characters. It looks like the three of them are stepping into the sunlight while the remaining party is still in the shadows. Even so, take a look at the little girl again. There seems to be an ethereal, unnatural glow around her, which is superbly contrasted by the black uniform of the captain. The reflection on the spearhead in the hand of the lieutenent, the sheer sense of movement among the people in the picture are nothing but awesome. Another important thing is the size of the painting. It is about 11ft by 14ft, which as you can imagine, is colossal. The night watch is hailed as the best work of Rembrandt.
He was also a key figure in the baroque style of painting. The baroque signifies grandeur and might, and usually, the paintings are very ornate and filled with detail. Heres an example-

This is a painting called 'A philosopher in meditation'. Again, look at the light effects- the main source of light in the picture is the window, and the philosopher sits right in front of it, making his figure hightlight because of the direction of light. The winding staircase looks grand and beautiful as it emerges from the shadows. And a secondary source of light is generated because of the second figure of a woman lurking in the right hand corner stroking a hearth. Some consider this painting to have gained inspiration from the yin yang symbol: male-female and light-dark contrasts in the right and left side of the picture may not be a coincidence. Anyway, whatever was his symbolic intention behind the setting, 'A philosopher in meditation' sure is a beautiful piece of art.
Now for one last sketch of Rembrandt-

This is a sketch of a lion by Rembrandt. This is one of my favourite Rembrandt works. I'll tell you why- look at the amount of grandeur and majesty the guy can bring in his huge masterpieces. He manages to bring the same majesty into this simple sketch! This is the way a lion should be drawn. The beautiful simplicty of lines is enchanting. And that is the mark of a true artist- he can create magic with the simplest of linework.
Rembrandt was blind in one eye....


Rakesh Vanamali said...

Thanks for a very lucid description of some of Rembrandt's best works! I loved the Night Watch & A philosopher in meditation, perhaps the latter much more, for its intensity in subject!

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