Thursday, February 22, 2018

The Treasures of Rembrandt van Rijn

His name has lived in the hearts and minds of lovers of fine art and especially portraiture since the 1600’s beginning in his native Holland. His fame was quick to spread beyond Hollands borders. He became a symbol for all things artistic, exuberant and beautiful.  As his esteem grew his importance and legend grew in equal stature. He would truly become and be called “Prince of Painters.” This unofficial but lovingly granted title was rightly and justly earned. Rembrandt van Rijn   will remain likely as such as long as the art of painting and excellence is considered important in this world.

Rembrandt excelled at many different schools of painting and forms of “picture making” he was a master draftsman and printer. He thrilled the many by creating biblical scenes, landscapes, mythologies and allegorical pieces.  Among his most revered works are The Night Watch,    The 100 Guilders Print and The Raising of Lazarus.   

The massive gifts of Rembrandt are evident and displayed in his understanding of humanity, his story-telling and his love of detail. With all that has been previously stated; it is his dramatic manipulation and control of light that is his hallmark. The technique known as chiaroscuro (the placing of extreme lightness in conjunction with extreme darkness) was never better executed than by the hand of Rembrandt. For that alone he could have been immortalized.

A few years ago at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC I was able to visit one of Rembrandt’s greatest pieces with someone special; my very young grandson. This happened to be a slow day at the museum and we pretty much had the gallery to ourselves. Looking at this particular one of the “Master’s” self-portraits was more akin to looking at a living breathing man. You could almost imagine this gentile, knowing soul blinking or taking a breath. Rembrandt had gone beyond photo-realism, surrealism or any noted form of realism. He had endowed life or as close as the alchemy of painting would allow. 

After a time I asked my grandson if he would like to meet this man? He had remained very calm for a child his then age as I held him raised in my arms. He answered; yes. 
I told him we have met him to a certain manner of speaking through Rembrandt’s exacting and specific methods. Time had been made to stand still. This work of art; the artist Rembrandt  had stood before at this exact proximity and distance as he worked the canvas, stood before the piece looking, studying, pausing, painting then seeing again,  creating. It was almost as if we were breathing the same air that Rembrandt had breathed so many centuries ago. We left the Rembrandt to move on to other works in this world class collection of art. We left the Rembrandt to another visitor, a respectful man who had waited patiently for his own time, personal moments with the master.

The selected works of Rembrandt featured here; hopefully, will touch your psyche in a special, singular way…in such a way as only can be reached through the embracing of his gifts, the gifts of Rembrandt’s visionary talents. 

 "Compare me with Rembrandt! What sacrilege! With Rembrandt, the colossus of Art! We should prostrate ourselves before Rembrandt and never compare anyone with him!"

                                                                                                                                                Agustuse Rodin

 "I have had three masters: Nature, Velázquez, and Rembrandt.

                                                                                                                 Francisco Goya

"Whenever I see a Frans Hals, I feel like painting; whenever I see a Rembrandt, I feel like giving up"

                                                                                                                      Max Liebermann

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Sir Alfred's Notorious Notations

It all began with one word; one simple word spoken softly to her baby boy; Alfred: BOO. Putting this into a certain perspective it makes perfect sense. The young startled child becomes the unchallenged “Master of Suspense” and the architect of many scares and thrills tempered with an arcane joy and sly humor. If you had only known; Mother Hitchcock; if you had only known.

The films; the films, the films…were Alfred Hitchcock’s greatest achievements. Many of his offerings being among the best ever…all worth seeing. This cinematic maestro directed and produced wonderfully entertaing and textbook examples of excellence. Dial “M” for Murder, Psycho, North by North West, Rear Window, Rebecca and on and on. His work dates back to the “Silent Era” and well into “The Talkies” "Vistavision" and "Technicolor." His influence is immeasurable and continues to this present day. His editing and visual story-telling skills are original and at best imitated and adapted by the many.  To a degree every director to follow him that includes any suspense or mystery pays tribute to Sir Alfred.

As edited into individual scenes many stand out as extravagant and compelling unto themselves. Including a few examples; the crop-dusting plane’s pursuit of Cary Grant in North by North West, the carnival carousel run amok  in Strangers on a Train and possible his “Hallmark” achievement the much admired and studied shower scene starring Janet Leigh in Psycho.

Growing up my generation had the pleasure of watching the original airings of the T.V. series “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” episodes were written by great story-tellers including the likes of Roald Dahl and Ray Bradbury. A high light of the show was Hitchcock walking his silhouette into his own line drawing caricature. This to the tune of Charles Gounod’s “Funeral March of a Marionette.” He had a brief interesting; abundantly clever intro and closing tailored for each broadcast that were often the best part of the black and white television shorts. After seven television seasons and eighty two feature film Hitchcock is truly the bench mark.     

Classic Promo for "The Birds"

Returning briefly to Alfred’s formative years; he was indeed blessed with two loving parents and I dare not leave out his father. He had his own unique contributions and places within the director’s psyche. Alfred Hitchcock related this story on occasion that goes something like this:  In response to some “minor” indiscretion young Alfred’s father hands him a folded note and instructed him to take it to the police station a few blocks from his home. Five year old Alfred dutifully walks to the station, enters and hands the desk officer the note. 

  The officer reads the note, shows no discernable emotional, pauses and then,  without words or ceremony takes Alfred into the back to an empty cell, places the child inside and closes the door with the finality and resonate cold, clanging thud that only an iron bared door can make. This followed with the disheartening turning of the key and the walking away of the officer again emotionless and wordless. After a brief period the officer returns to release Alfred sending him on his way, forever changed, forever fearful and full of an imaginative respect of the possibabality of future incarceration.                                                      

“The Birds” was the first Hitchcock film I was prividgled to see and it was showing at the local theater. The nation was talking about this amazing film so my friends and I had great anticipation as we walked to the theatre. This was the most recent “Hitchcock” release, the year was 1963. I was 10…just slightly younger than one of the film’s stars; Veronica Cartwright. This gave us a unique window into the happenings onscreen. We all were delightfully and sufficiently scared, thrilled, baffled and compelled to see it at least four more times during this initial release. They say the first love is the greatest and The Birds remains among my favored film treasures and memories.

Hitchcock Quotes

Man does not live by murder alone. He needs affection, approval, encouragement and, occasionally, a hearty meal.

Always make the audience suffer as much as possible

There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it.

The length of a film should be directly related to the endurance of the human bladder.

Film your murders like love scenes, and film your love scenes like murders.

Mystery is an intellectual process... But suspense is essentially an emotional process.

Give them pleasure - the same pleasure they have when they wake up from a nightmare.

The silent pictures were the purest form of cinema

Fear isn't so difficult to understand. After all, weren't we all frightened as children? Nothing has changed since Little Red Riding Hood faced the big bad wolf. What frightens us today is exactly the same sort of thing that frightened us yesterday. It's just a different wolf. This fright complex is rooted in every individual.

I have a feeling that inside you; somewhere, there's somebody nobody knows about, feelings, nobody knows