Of all the picture books I’ve been browsing lately, this book has a distinction: I actually started looking through this book last football season, and it remained on the side table, often-dusted, until I finished it this season.
This book, as its title might indicate, is a retrospective of Rembrandt’s work and a pretty detailed biography of the man. Too much text, almost, to read and keep one’s place while watching the intermittent plays of a football game. I learned a bit about Rembrandt’s rise and fall and the meaning of chiaroscuro. That might be the only thing I retain long term, but it’s enough.
Related story: I’ve had two copies of Rembrandt’s Man in a Gold Helmet in my life. The first I bought when I was in college with a freshmanly minted credit card. The Alumni Memorial Union had a print sale in it, and I wanted copies of Wyeth’s Christina’s World and Seurat’s A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. Since it was three for $15 or $6 each, I picked a third. The third was Man in a Gold Helmet.
Sometime later, I divested myself of those prints, but I found a framed one inexpensive at a garage sale or an estate sale back when I was hitting them all the time. I bought it, and I hung it in Casinoport, and I hung it in Old Trees, and I hung it at Nogglestead. But when I was talking to my beautiful wife about the painting, I couldn’t remember where we’d hung it. The living room is rife with Renoir, the bedroom has a Monet (I’ve discovered recently it’s a Monet) and a couple of Hargroves, but I drew a blank on the Rembrandt. I didn’t know if we’d stored it or if we’d donated it, but I’ll be darned if I remembered it or could find it.
Until my wife and I were sitting in a chair together, a chair I don’t normally sit in, and I saw it: it is in the small hallway between our offices, a hallway that we rarely light. I pass by it several times a day, but I’d lost it there until such time as I was sitting somewhere I normally don’t and looked into that hallway.
So I still have it, and now that I have reviewed this book, I can definitively and with more authority say that it’s my favorite of Rembrandt’s work. Probably partly because of the history I have with it, but also probably because the affinity I have for it thematically and stylistically I would have had with it even if I’d seen it in the book for the first time.
So the book’s worth checking out. Rembrandt was a very interesting painter, and he lived a very interesting life.
Books mentioned in this review: