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15 November 2023

One of the largest exhibitions of Rembrandt’s etchings on show in Worcester, Massachusetts (USA)

‘Rembrandt: Etchings from the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen’ opens at the Worcester Museum in Massachusetts on 18 November. The exhibition features more than eighty works, including seventy etchings by the artist, alongside works by artists who inspired Rembrandt and those who were inspired by him.

Among the largest exhibitions of the artist’s etchings ever to be shown in the United States, it is curated by Peter van der Coelen, Curator of Prints and Drawings at Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Claire Whitner, the Worcester Museum’s Director of Curatorial Affairs and James A. Welu, Curator of European Art. The exhibition runs in Worcester until 19 February 2024 and will then travel to Quebec.

Rembrandt the Etcher

Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669) had not yet reached the age of twenty when he made his first etching. He never had a proper teacher for this technique, but took inspiration from the work of his contemporaries. Rembrandt learned the tricks of the trade through trial and error, and ultimately reinvented the medium.

His etchings are the fruit of an unrelenting innovative urge to push the very boundaries of the technique. Throughout his career Rembrandt 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 graphic work, which reached a much larger public and was distributed much wider than his paintings and drawings, that Rembrandt gained European fame in his lifetime. Even then, people would look with admiration and amazement at the spontaneous lines, the extraordinary light direction and the intensive use of drypoint. Today, Rembrandt is acknowledged, together with Dürer, Goya and Picasso, as one of the greatest print makers in the history of art. 

Rembrandt built up an exceptionally large oeuvre of more than three hundred prints. About a quarter of these have a biblical theme. This theme also gave rise to Rembrandt’s most ambitious prints, including a group of New Testament prints which stand out if only through their large size. But Rembrandt also reached unparalleled heights with his landscapes and portrait prints. He was innovative as well in virtually all other genres, such as the classical mythology, the nude, the self-portrait, everyday life (‘genre’) and even still life.

Rembrandt Etchings from the Collection Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen

The exhibition showcases over 80 works. Among these are over sixty of Rembrandt’s finest prints. All exhibits come from the renowned printroom of Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam which was put together mainly by connoisseur collectors. It is the first time that these works are touring as a group on this scale.