Rembrandt and the Passion @ Hunterian Museum
The name 'Rembrandt' conjures up the kind of obvious and indisputable sense of quality that's often deliberately missing from contemporary art – art critics agree that he was great but so do most postmen. The curious thing is that Rembrandt actually helped to push art towards the confusing mess it's in today because within Rembrandt lies the seed of the modernism that flowered centuries later and bore fruit so delicious that we've been stuck in a cycle of regurgitation ever since.
Rembrandt and the Passion at the Huntarian Art Gallery focuses in on one particular work called the Entombment Sketch; but it's not your typical masterpiece. The painting is small and the brushwork is quick, even for Rembrandt. So instead of a highly finished picture that looks too perfect to be real we have the grimy first impression, still warm from the artist's brush.
The image was originally thought to be a preparatory 'sketch' but this new exhibition puts forward the case that the painting was intended as a finished work. An array of scientific methods with impressively long names all suggest that Rembrandt worked on the painting repeatedly. He wasn't using it to make something else; the 'sketch' was an end in itself.
The conclusion is that Rembrandt chose to leave works 'unfinished' as a subtle device, one that wouldn't be fully appreciated until Picasso. Unfinished art draws attention away from the subject and towards the artist's skill and capacity for invention. Thanks to artists like Rembrandt we've slowly gained the freedom to paint any way we like. The sad thing is that we've forgotten how to paint as well as Rembrandt. [Peter Drew]