Paint

Can’t be all work and no play on these trips, so after the conference ended I joined Christoph and Riccarda for tour around what’s open of the Rijksmuseum, Some days you want Van Gogh, but today it was Rembrandt I was craving, and I was not disappointed. As dark and smooth as Dove chocolate, Rembrandt’s paintings crawl out of the murky edges, gradually filling in until he finds his center, imbued with unearthly light. It may be just a portrait of Dutch burghers, or the Nightwatch, or a commissioned portrait of some self-important notable, or his own endearing self-portraits, but the dude knew his paint, and made faces luminous.

Willem Heda has got to be the still life artist of the millennium – a table full of random shiny objects, each reflecting the all the others perfectly and subtly. And the brushwork on some of the trees in the landscape series, and the ships with sails flying in the naval depictions.

But in the end, I have to go back and stand in front of the ruffled collars and their faces, unafraid of wrinkles or of character, and certainly not flattering, but suffused with an illumination that is simultaneously profound and oblique, single-pointed yet permeating capable of ignoring or simply implying whole stories and areas of the canvas while bringing one telling detail so the fore with no more than a prick of photons. Rembrandt – it’s more than a toothpaste.

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