Rembrandt’s graphic oeuvre is rich and varied. Rembrandt was one of the few artists who excelled in virtually every genre, including landscapes, portraits and self-portraits, and scenes from the Bible and classical mythology. That Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen owns a large collection of Rembrandt’s prints was not generally known until recently. This online collection catalogue makes the entire collection accessible to the public for the first time.
Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669) was not yet twenty when he made his first etching. Unlike in painting, he never had a formal training in printmaking. He took inspiration from the work of his contemporaries and learned the craft through trial and error, ultimately reinventing the medium. Rembrandt’s etchings are the fruit of an unrelenting innovative urge to push the very boundaries of the technique. Throughout his career he was driven by the ambition to stand alongside the great graphic artists of the past, such as Albrecht Dürer and Lucas van Leyden.
It was actually through his prints, which reached a much larger audience and were distributed much more widely than his paintings and drawings, that Rembrandt gained fame in Europe in his lifetime. Even then, his prints drew admiration for his spontaneous and natural lines, extraordinary command of lighting and intensive use of drypoint. Today, Rembrandt is acknowledged, alongside Dürer, Goya and Picasso, as one of the greatest printmakers in the history of art.
Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen’s collection of Rembrandt prints numbers more than two hundred sheets: not only impressions printed by the master himself, but also posthumous prints from the 17th century, reprints from the 18th and 19th centuries, copies and reproductions. The original collection of Rembrandt prints, originating from F.J.O. Boymans, was lost in its entirety during a fire in the museum in 1864. The current collection has been acquired since 1923. In that year, Adriaan Domela Nieuwenhuis (1850-1935) donated nearly ninety etchings to the museum as part of a substantial graphics collection. Other donors, including J.C.J. Bierens de Haan and H.M. Montauban van Swijndregt, have donated around a dozen sheets each. A larger addition came in 1962, when Digna and Sara Louise van Stolk gifted forty etchings to the museum. The museum was able to acquire several important sheets via the acquisition fund of the Lucas van Leyden Foundation, including, in 2013, a rare impression in red ink.
[caption id="attachment_15919" align="alignnone" width="308"] Rembrandt van Rijn, A Blind Hurdy-Gurdy Player and Family Receiving Alms at the Door of a House (1648)[/caption]
The museum’s collection of more than thirty drawings and five paintings by Rembrandt has been published earlier in collection catalogues. A restoration and conservation project carried out in 2014-15, supported by the Stichting Boek en Wurm (Book and Worm Foundation), enabled more detailed research into and describing of the collection of Rembrandt prints. The finest and rarest sheets were presented in 2017-18 in the exhibition ‘Virtuosity and Imagination: Rembrandt Etchings from the Collection’.
Peter van der Coelen, September 2017
The collection of Rembrandt’s prints
View the collection of Rembrandt etchings here.
This online collection catalogue is under development and is not yet complete.
At present, approximately 180 works have been added. 72 of these are on display in the exhibition Virtuosity and Imagination: Rembrandt Etchings from the Collection, which runs until January 2018. More Rembrandt prints from the museum’s collection will be added in the coming period.