Becoming Rembrandt: Creativity and Competition in Amsterdam, ca. 1630–1655

Exhibition Building

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Press release

6 OCTOBER 2021 TO 30 JANUARY 2022

Exhibition Building
Press preview: 5 October 2021, 11:00 am

It is hard to imagine today, but when the young painter Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (1606–1669) moved from Leiden to Amsterdam in 1631, he was just one of many artists who wanted to make a name for himself in the flourishing metropolis of art, culture and commerce. He succeeded in doing so within just a few short years: Rembrandt gained extensive acclaim, trained dozens of aspiring artists, and engaged in the art trade, including the active distribution of his own paintings and prints. At the same time, his style changed radically – from the small, precisely executed paintings of his early days in Leiden to the large, dramatically lit narrative canvases of the Amsterdam period.
In a major exhibition, in conjunction with the National Gallery of Canada the Städel Museum will, for the first time, address Rembrandt’s rise to international fame during his formative years in Amsterdam. The presentation combines the Städel’s collection of works by Rembrandt, including The Blinding of Samson (1636), with outstanding loans from international collections, such as the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the Gemäldegalerie in Berlin, the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister in Dresden, the National Gallery in London, the Museo del Prado in Madrid, and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. In this exhibition, Rembrandt’s art enters into a dialogue with masterpieces by older and younger artists of his time, such as Nicolas Eliasz Pickenoy and Bartholomeus van der Helst, and with brilliant works by his own former students, such as Govaert Flinck and Ferdinand Bol. Focus will be placed on groups of closely related paintings that shed light on Rembrandt’s role and that of his contemporaries in this creative network. Rembrandt's pictorial production, and his impact, were surprisingly broad, encompassing landscapes, genre scenes and still lifes as well as history paintings and portraits. The examination of his competitors influenced his artistic development as well as his entrepreneurial ambitions. In Amsterdam, an exceptional number of talented artists competed for the attention and patronage of the wealthy and art-loving middle classes. It was precisely this exciting and stimulating atmosphere that challenged the young artist from Leiden to become the world-famous master that he is to this day: Rembrandt.

The exhibition is organised by the Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main, and the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa.

Curators: Prof Dr Jochen Sander (Vice Director and Head of the Collection of Dutch, Flemish and German Painting before 1800, Städel Museum) and Prof Dr Stephanie Dickey (Guest Curator at the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa)
With support from: ING AG, Dagmar-Westberg-Stiftung

Exhibition title and dates subject to change

Press images

Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn (1606–1669)
The Abduction of Ganymede, 1635
177 × 129 cm
Oil on canvas
Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Dresden
Photo: Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden

Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn, The Abduction of Ganymede, 1635

Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn (1606–1669)
Self-Portrait with Velvet Beret, 1634
Oak wood
58,4 × 47,7 cm
Photo: Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Gemäldegalerie - Christoph Schmidt

Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn,Self-Portrait with Velvet Beret, 1634

Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn (1606–1669)
The Blinding of Samson, 1636
206 × 276 cm
Oil on canvas
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Photo: Städel Museum - U. Edelmann

Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn, The Blinding of Samson, 1636

Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn (1606–1669)
Judith at the Banquet of Holofernes, 1634
Oil on canvas
143 × 154,7 cm
Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid
Photo: Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid

Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn, Judith at the Banquet of Holofernes, 1634, 1634
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