Monday, November 24, 2014

Rembrandt in the Depths

“Rembrandt: The Late Works,” an exhibition now on view at London’s National Gallery, will linger long in the mind of anyone who has the pleasure to see it. Bringing together approximately ninety paintings, prints, and drawings Rembrandt made at the end of his life, it reveals a great artist working with unprecedented technical command and emotional power, even as the world closes in around him.
In the fifteen years before his death in 1669, Rembrandt suffered one terrible reversal after another. In 1654, his common-law wife Hendrickje Stoffels was condemned as a whore for her relationship with Rembrandt, and this led some important clients to ostracize him. Ever a spendthrift, he went bankrupt two years later and was forced to auction off his house, art collection, and printing press. Despite such desperate steps, he plunged still further into poverty, becoming so destitute he even had to sell the grave of his first wife, Saskia. Worse still, Hendrickje died of the plague in 1663, and Rembrandt’s beloved son Titus died in 1668, leaving him all but alone...