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Rembrandt and Freud: Conversations in Etching

January 29th, 2010

by Brenda Rix, Assistant Curator, Prints and Drawings

The exhibition REMBRANDT / FREUD: Etchings from Life opens Saturday, January 30.

Lucian Freud etching

“With etching there is an element of danger and mystery. You don’t know how it’s going to come out. What’s black is white. What’s left is right.”

— Lucian Freud, March 2007

More than three hundred years separate the lives of Rembrandt van Rijn and Lucian Freud, two great masters of the human form. Both artists made printmaking an integral part of their art practice, and both have created extraordinary images using the etching process. Rembrandt van Rijn (1606–1663), better known today for his paintings, was hailed in the seventeenth century as “a great virtuoso” for the astonishing range and variety of his work in the etching medium. Contemporary artist Lucian Freud is the grandson of the psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud. He was born in Berlin in 1922 but has lived in England since 1933. Celebrated internationally as both a painter and a printmaker, he has been called the “Rembrandt of our times.”

Rembrandt van Rijn etching

Now, a provocative exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ontario juxtaposes the etchings of Rembrandt and Freud, encouraging visitors to make new connections between these two influential artists. Rembrandt / Freud: Etchings from Life showcases remarkable and uncompromising images of the human face and the human body. These are powerful works of art that go beyond surface appearances to reveal the inner life of their subjects. The exhibition includes self-portraits, nudes and portraits of family, friends, animals and landscapes.

The AGO has an extensive collection of Rembrandt etchings, thanks to a major gift in 2006 from Esther and Sam Sarick. The Mira Godard Gallery, the McMaster Museum of Art and several private collectors have generously loaned Freud etchings to this exhibition.

Top: Lucian Freud, Before the Fourth 2004, 34.3 x 42.9, etching on paper, signed, edition of 46, Courtesy of Mira Godard Gallery © Lucian Freud; Bottom: Rembrandt van Rijn (Dutch, 1606-1669), Negress Lying Down 1658, 8.1 x 15.8, etching, drypoint and burin on laid paper, Gift of Esther and Sam Sarick, 2006 © Art Gallery of Ontario

6 Responses to “Rembrandt and Freud: Conversations in Etching”

  1. Moses Shuldiner says:

    I, along with a group from St. Felix Centre, were privileged today in attending a docent led tour of the Rembrandt and Freud etchings exhibit at the AGO.

    The docent, Hildy, was well-informed and passionate about the works. She had the knack of expressing her ideas and yet be equally enthusiastic about the opinions and feelings of our group. She very kindly drew each of us out while imparting an impressive knowledge of the artists in the exhibit.

    I feel that it took a lot of courage to juxtapose the works of Rembrandt and Freud. Some people will be outraged that a contemporary artist would be put on the same level (their etchings do hang side by side)as one of the great masters. I applaud the boldness of the curators involved in this exhibit.

    The differences in style and subject matter between the artists enhanced my appreciation of each one. Rembrandt to me appeared like yang, extroversion, vanilla and sun light. Freud seemed like yin, introversion, chocolate and moon light.

    Again, thank you.

  2. Moses Shuldiner says:

    I, along with a group from St. Felix Centre, were privileged today in attending a docent led tour of the Rembrandt and Freud etchings exhibit at the AGO.

    The docent, Hildy, was well-informed and passionate about the works. She had the knack of expressing her ideas and yet be equally enthusiastic about the opinions and feelings of our group. She very kindly drew each of us out while imparting an impressive knowledge of the artists in the exhibit.

    I feel that it took a lot of courage to juxtapose the works of Rembrandt and Freud. Some people will be outraged that a contemporary artist would be put on the same level (their etchings do hang side by side)as one of the great masters. I applaud the boldness of the curators involved in this exhibit.

    The differences in style and subject matter between the artists enhanced my appreciation of each one. Rembrandt to me appeared like yang, extroversion, vanilla and sun light. Freud seemed like yin, introversion, chocolate and moon light.

    Again, thank you.

  3. Lisa Lahey says:

    That’s what I admire about the AGO – willing to take unusual chances that most galleries wouldn’t dream about. I think the message here (my interpretation) is that the gallery is stating our contemporary artists have an equal contribution to make in the art world today that is as relevant as the masters of yesterday. And the similarities between the two painters are there if subtle. That can’t be a coincidence.

    Rembrandt revealed a “deep compassion for humankind” as has been noted about his work. Freud stated simply that he painted people “as they happen to be” – without judgement.

  4. Lisa Lahey says:

    That’s what I admire about the AGO – willing to take unusual chances that most galleries wouldn’t dream about. I think the message here (my interpretation) is that the gallery is stating our contemporary artists have an equal contribution to make in the art world today that is as relevant as the masters of yesterday. And the similarities between the two painters are there if subtle. That can’t be a coincidence.

    Rembrandt revealed a “deep compassion for humankind” as has been noted about his work. Freud stated simply that he painted people “as they happen to be” – without judgement.

  5. Tiffany Bouchard says:

    Rebrednt and freud are the most extrordinary etching artists just looking at the drawings they present at the exihbit is so inspiring and if you look closley you can see all the etch marks.
    one thing that really cathces my attention is how they enjoyed drawing in the nude which was something back then considered a great piece of art work if someone drew a nude.How the AGO left the magnifine glasses out for those who were intrested in seeing how detailed the twos work can be and it can lso be hand on. Try comparing a rembrant and freuds pictures is there a difference along woth the huge difference in age you can see thta in the art work ones work is very differnt from another which really caught my attention. While i watched the video they selected and left for us to watch was very entertaining to see how much work and effort goes into something that looked from afar like a regular sketch.

  6. Tiffany Bouchard says:

    Rebrednt and freud are the most extrordinary etching artists just looking at the drawings they present at the exihbit is so inspiring and if you look closley you can see all the etch marks.
    one thing that really cathces my attention is how they enjoyed drawing in the nude which was something back then considered a great piece of art work if someone drew a nude.How the AGO left the magnifine glasses out for those who were intrested in seeing how detailed the twos work can be and it can lso be hand on. Try comparing a rembrant and freuds pictures is there a difference along woth the huge difference in age you can see thta in the art work ones work is very differnt from another which really caught my attention. While i watched the video they selected and left for us to watch was very entertaining to see how much work and effort goes into something that looked from afar like a regular sketch.

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