REVIEW: Rembrandt: Thinking on Paper, British Museum

This free display at the museum is worth catching and  shows potential for a full scale exhibition devoted to the artist’s work  on paper. 

Rembrandt van Rijn,
Young woman sleeping (Hendrickje Stoffels?), around 
© the Trustees of the British Museum

Marking the 350th anniversary of the artist’s death, the British Museum’s neat and compact exhibition focusing on the rarely seen prints and drawings offers a surprisingly detailed look at Rembrandt’s style and approach to many different topics.

Comprised of sixty five prints and drawings, Rembrandt: Thinking on Paper is an intimate look at the way in which the artist worked – as well as offering visitors a glimpse of some of the rarely seen works up close, highlighting his various techniques according to the subject including self-portraits, landscapes and his poignant and thought provoking biblical scenes.

It has to be said that it is clear that each drawing or print has been selected with great care from the British Museum’s own collection to make a point, with the exhibition proving to be a very educational and enlightening experience. Each description label discussing the individual piece is filled with useful information about the particular technique used and what it helps to convey in a way to keep it accessible for those who don’t have a strong art knowledge.

Rembrandt: Thinking on Paper is particularly strong when it refers to the biblical scenes that the artist focused on in his later years, highlighting the way in which he captured the light and ability to convey a particular story that capture’s the viewer’s attention. In particular, his etching of Christ Healing the Sick (also known as the Hundred Guilder Print derived from the large sum of money supposedly once paid for it) is a striking piece of work that is vivid in every detail and captures a variety of emotions when the viewer looks closely at it.

Elsewhere, with pieces such as The Three Trees and and The Jewish Bride, it is possible to see just how Rembrandt was able to convey texture and depth to his work to add to the sense of drama and power behind the image – it is extraordinary and mesmerising.

With all of this taken into consideration, it is a real shame that this exhibition is hidden away upstairs in a quiet part of the museum that doesn’t quite get so much attention drawn to it. There is a real potential to make a full-scale exhibition out of this subject, to give it the full attention it deserves.

For those with a strong interest in drawing and technique this is a must-visit display. It is a hidden gem of an exhibition that is fascinating to explore that leaves you wanting more.

By Emma Clarendon 

Rembrandt: Thinking on Paper is on display at the British Museum  until the 4th August. 

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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