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Rembrandt: The chiaroscuro of life, the soul of light

By Bea Aaronson

“Rembrandt is so deeply mysterious that he says things for which there are no words in any language. Rembrandt is truly called a magician… that’s not an easy calling.”

—Vincent van Gogh

“He can blend, like no one else, reality with mystery, the bestial with the divine.”

—Paul Valéry


Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn was born in the Netherlands, in Leiden, in 1606, and died in Amsterdam in 1669. I shall talk to you about his life, his loves, friendships and passions; I shall unleash for you the plutocratic frenzy of the Dutch Golden Age, with its tulipomania, the first speculative bubble during which people made and lost fortunes; I shall play the bourgeois taste for realistic ostentatious art against Rembrandt’s soulful and spiritual artistic call. But most of all, I shall guide you into the loneliest depths of feeling, into the journey of the human condition where life and death, with all they contain of joy, love, tenderness, togetherness, suffering, rejection, loss and solitude, hold the stage in a most heart-wrenching choreography, dancing the sublime yet painful pas-de-deux of human destiny.

“Rembrandt: the chiaroscuro of life, the soul of light”
Wed, Feb 26, 4:30 and 6:30pm
La Ostra Roja
A Casa Verde annex
San Jorge 45
Colonia San Antonio (off Refugio Sur)
130 pesos
Reservations: 121-1026


Whether engravings or oils on canvas, I shall disclose for your pleasure the secrets of Rembrandt’s art: his somewhat reduced palette of warm golden glowing reds, yellows, ochers, siennas and blacks, his enhancing glazes and varnishes; his mastery of layering and thick incrusted impasto, with which he created the magic of an existential chiaroscuro. With Rembrandt, light and shade move inside colors to become an all-invading and all-enveloping luminous organism, which then leaves the canvas to touch you and enter your very soul. You cannot escape. You are inside and outside, at the same time. Ah, time … It’s all about time: the time to enjoy, to love and be loved; the time to buy and spend, the time to dress up and be rich, and also the time to suffer, to be rejected; the time to lose everything and be poor; the time to be young, the time to be old, and this irremediable process of aging which gnaws at you like a subtle exquisite poison.

Rembrandt saw it all, lived it all, and without any bitterness, but a rather tender lucidity, he gave us the most sensitive and penetrating rendering of the aging process through his self-portraits—more than 90 of them—a haunting visual autobiography with which words cannot compete. Some 90 self-portraits projected such a psychological insight: from the boisterous joy and playfulness of youth to the lassitude and resignation of old age, all exhaling a consciousness, a deep and intense possession of one’s soul. Rembrandt’s self- portraits will arrest your gaze, move you to the core. They have become for me a spiritual and humbling testimony of human impermanence. Humility is perhaps the greatest gift a true artist can give us.

Success was never Rembrandt’s goal, although he enjoyed it while it lasted. He never tried to please the rich patrons. He painted what he wanted to paint: “I can’t paint the way they want me to paint …. I just can’t do it!” Whether naked women, biblical scenes and mythological legends, the carcass of an ox, commissioned portraits, and his own self-portraits, everything he painted is totally infused by his spirit. No, it is not success that drove Rembrandt, but the relentless need to question and understand. That’s why he felt more at ease with his Jewish neighbors, chose to live among them, endlessly painting his Rabbi and Kabbalah student friends. He learned from them that the human experience is intrinsically linked to questioning. All of us humans are just but walking questions! That’s why he also invited beggars into his home, fed them, bathed them and asked them to pose for him, not afraid to face the outrage of his materialist Dutch contemporaries.

His immense compassion led him to soar in his art. Because the light which inhabits his canvases is the light of love. But, within this love, you can also feel a soft yet febrile anxiety emanating from his scrutiny. A very complex blend that Rembrandt van Rijn from Leiden has succeeded to transfer into paint like no other. I invite you to meet or re-discover this unique artist, this suffering human soul, who died unnoticed and was buried in an unmarked grave, hoping that my immense respect and passion for him will be contagious.


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