- by Barney Davey
The Phoenix Art Museum ends its triumphant run of the very special exhibit, Rembrandt and the Golden Age of Dutch Art on May 13. The show includes 90 stellar examples of Dutch 17th century paintings, prints and sculptures. I visited last weekend and jostled with the steady crowds of viewers attempting to absorb the art.
For an art lover, it was a huge treat to enjoy exposure to such exquisite art in one place. To understand the exhibit celebrates a momentous turning in the development of a modern society that helped shape the framework of what would become the U.S. made grasping the importance of Dutch art and all that it symbolized more poignant.
I was partly inspired to take up woodworking when I realized the beautiful double settee crafted by former president, Jimmy Carter, would live on in the Smithsonian Institute long after we are all gone. Art is a gift to the future. Certainly, neither Rembrandt nor any of this contemporaries could have imagined how revered and important their work would be more than 300 years later.
Of course, among the many interesting and compelling parts of Rembrandt’s story is he was a master printmaker. His etchings have been sought as valuable collectibles from their creation in the 1600s to today. A restless perfectionist, he made a series of etchings of the same image. He called the iterations “Estates.” He continued to redraw the plates until he was satisfied with the outcome. It’s a rare thing to be able to observe the artistic process in such detail. One such example was on display at this museum show.
The free audio players that were included with the price of admission allowed for a self-paced docent style tour of the exhibit. The commentary was superb providing insight and details into the changes on etchings and into the artist’s thinking on making the changes.
Obviously, Rembrandt embraced the high tech of the day, which included making etchings. One can only wonder what this genius might have done with the wide variety of high tech media available to artists today. Would he have jumped on multi-media? Would he have a My Space site? Would he be using digtial painting techniques to get different results from oils? I suppose to some purists such questions are heretical enough to get me burned at the stakes. I like to think Rembrandt would have delved into everything he could to express his creativity.
Another exhibit, Curves of Steel, began two weeks prior to the end of the Rembrandt show. The museum offered a great combination price of only $20 for both shows.
Curves of Steel is a unique exhibit displaying some of the most interesting and sensuous automobiles ever built. It features 22 of some of the rarest and most stunning cars ever to be presented in one show – many are the only existing examples of their kind. The lipstick red 1939 Delahaye 165 convertible was a personal favorite. Although, I’d be hard pressed to tell you which impressed me the most. The 1938 Delage coupe was also stunning. Oh, to take either of those on a road trip up the Pacific Coast Highway…California dreamin’ for sure.
These exotic cars are elaborate steel sculptures and fine works of art. Many in the exhibit were from the Art Deco age of the 1930s. It is amazing how much art and industrial design came from that fruitful period. The timeless styles of that period continue to inform decisions on art, architecture and industrial manufacturing today and will do so long into the future.