Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Dutch Baroque (pt. 6)

An early painting by Rembrandt (and arguably one of his most enigmatic works) is titled The Artist in His Studio and features Rembrandt himself staring into a large canvas.  This autobiographical piece brings in the stark realism I described earlier.  The room is far from an elegant royal court.  The wood floor is old and has sustained water damage; the paint on the walls is chipping off; the room itself is poorly lit and scantily furnished.  This is hardly an abode, hardly a "studio" at all.  Yet Rembrandt titles it "The Artist…"—not "An Artist…"—"…in His Studio," as if to imply the simple lifestyle and ultimately minimalist technique of not just one artist but in fact all artists.  In this painting the artist himself is mostly hidden in the corner and obscured by shadow.  The most interesting feature (and also the biggest object) of the painting is the canvas.  In a tantalizingly mysterious call, Rembrandt has chosen to turn the canvas from the viewer.  This massive object that takes up the bulk of the frame is turned around so that we cannot see what is painted on it.  Is it a self-portrait? a genre painting? something else?  We don't know, and we'll never know.  So we can never really know what "the artist" (again, representative of all artists) is painting when he produces a work from his studio.  Art has an exclusive relationship with the artist, as intimate and personal as the private life of a married couple.  Outside viewers, the art critics of the day, can never fully enter into the conversation.

No comments:

Post a Comment