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WANGNEWS OPINION PAGE
Rembrandt and
      the Golden Age of Dutch Art

Rembrandt and the Golden Age of Dutch Art: Treasures from the
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, is at the Dayton Art Institute until January 7, 2007.

This is an exhibition that relies on the sheer beauty and luminosity of the
works to captivate viewers, while leaving text and analysis very sparse. The
rooms of the exhibition are organized according to basic themes, e.g. Artists,
Landscapes, City Life, Still Life, Religion, Portraits. The clarity and
peacefulness of the landscapes, and the lavishness of portraits and still lifes
in this exhibition convey an unparalleled visual splendor. The exhibition
includes a rich collection of Rembrandt's prints, which are intermingled
throughout the galleries and compete amazingly well with the much larger
and colorful oil paintings. I spent as much time, if not more, looking at the
prints as I did the paintings. The museum smartly equips the viewer with a
lucid glossary defining engraving vs. etching vs. drypoint (those up for a
challenge might try to guess which technique(s) was utilized for a given
print), as well as plenty of magnifying glasses to encourage close
examination.

I came away feeling that 17th century Dutch life was a utopic society,
indeed, a Golden Age. The signs give sweeping summaries that commerce
thrived, artists prospered, and culture flourished, but they don't probe many
issues in depth. The only indication of anything troubling in the golden
society is a handful of small prints of beggars by Rembrandt. History buffs
may be frustrated that the text glosses over some major questions-- what
were the Dutch innovations in trade that enabled such prosperity? What
about religious conflict? What was the nature of political life? There is a
large group portrait of government officials at a table, yet the label tells us
virtually nothing about their function or significance.

Yet the exhibition remains compelling because it is so
intensely visual. One can't help but be stunned by its
portrayal of a rich cross section of a period that is
clearly a deep source of pride to the Dutch.

Review by Vivian F. Wang 09/27/2006