High Road to Culture in Flanders and the Netherlands


High Road to Culture in Flanders and the Netherlands

Yes, But. Rembrandt as an Unstable Medium
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Yes, But. Rembrandt as an Unstable Medium

(Gary Schwartz) The Low Countries - 2006, № 14, pp. 221-226

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Rembrandt studies are a nerve-racking field. It is nearly impossible to write a proper paragraph about the artist or his work without stepping on the toes – or kicking the shins, depending on your mood – of a colleague. Part of this is due to the argumentative nature of scholars and part to the equivocal personality of the artist. By the time he arrived on the scene at the age of eighteen or nineteen, the man had set in swing a dialectic that has never since come to rest. Students of Rembrandt never had a chance. The problem with Rembrandt, once one is resigned to the impossibility of capturing him entire, is how to deal with the Yes and the But. In the biography, too much Yes leads to hero worship, too much But to a misanthropic image of the man that no one is willing to accept. In attributions, too much Yes creates an oeuvre lacking in critical definition, too much But a corpus that eliminates work of high quality for which no other candidate is available. Welcome, then, to the Rembrandt Year 2006. What will it bring us? Will the impossibility of dealing with Rembrandt/‘Rembrandt' only increase? Or will the aggregate of contributions – more than 60 exhibitions and God knows how many books – finally turn the corner from Yes, But in the direction of But Yes!

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