Rembrandt at the BM

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A more profitable use of gallery time than looking at Scully can be found at the British Museum where they are showing two free exhibitions in their prints and drawings room.

On arrival I was still reeling from an extraordinary concert at the Wigmore Hall so I was in the perfect state to receive the accumulated wisdom of another of the greats of humanity, Rembrandt.* The BM has assembled a comprehensive selection of works that illustrate Rembrandt’s development as an artist and philosopher. You can follow the way in which he adapts his technique as he matures within broad thematic groupings of landscapes, biblical scenes, portraits etc. Combining visiting this show with watching the excellent BBC4 doc Looking for Rembrandt that’s still available online is the best free entertainment currently on offer in London.

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One of the self-portraits on view in the BM’s Rembrandt show

By the time Beethoven and Rembrandt had finished with me I was ready for something less complex. Which the artists’ postcards exhition in the next room definitely is in parts. There are complex works but also straightforwardly flippant and fun things which made it an ideal way to wrap up a cultural afternoon. And no longer having the energy to go through all of the works on offer – about a couple of hundred or so from dozens of different artists – means that I’ll return soon to look at the ones that I missed.

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What I liked about the postcards exhibition, in contrast to the technical virtuosity of Rembrandt, is that it reminded me that creativity can be simple. With a pen, an idea and a postcard you can make something provocative, or funny, or moving. And something that is both public and intimate at the same time. Rembrandt is a must-see but don’t neglect the less obvious display next door if you’re in the British Museum.

#art #London

*Andreas Haefliger had performed Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas No. 30 and 32. Performed though is a very underpowered word to describe what he did to PS32, where in the final movement he pulled around the tempos so wildly that it felt like he might skid out of control in the rapid, jazzy central section but then ended in a feeling of utter calm and warmth that I was in tears. The Wigmore audience responded magnificently. That’s why it’s the best venue (in my limited experience) in the world.

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f1insburyparker View All →

Blue Badge guide to London and academic specialising in early twentieth century history. Blogging on history, academia, and food and culture in the capital (and occasionally elsewhere).

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