REMBRANDT’S WOMEN National Gallery Of Scotland. Edinburgh, until Sun 2 Sep 00..
Woman In Bed c.1645
Rembrandt’s rotund ladies are certainly eye-openers if not quite sights for sore eyes. They challenge the body fascism that patrols our perception of beauty. Especially the
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nudes who. derobed of their material scaffolding, their freed flesh flowing over thick puckered thighs. force you to confront your ideas of attractiveness. But Rembrandt wasn‘t making a political statement. he was merely observing the physiognomy of the women in his life: his wife Saskia, his mistress Geertje Dircks and his last mistress Hendrickje Stoffels. all apparently large women.
It would be grossly naive to assume that Rembrandt loved women because he painted them as such. To map the minutiae of a woman‘s imperfections is not love but technique. Rembrandt was zealous in his approach to detail whether it was the whisper of a wrinkle, the heavy softness of velvet or the lustrous light on a pearl. he delicately dispensed accuracy.
Rembrandt‘s desire for accuracy is apparent in the small portraits. ‘tronies' (character studies) and domestic scenes that he drew and etched. They are marvellous to see because they chart Rembrandt‘s growing mastery of his technique
and there is a palpable fluidity as he tries to capture shape and movement. His latei nudes are beautifully observed and drawn. and perhaps by this pomt beauty is no longer an airbrushed concept.
Rembrandt used his drawmgs as studies for his paintings. In his more fanciful work he elevates the women he knew from domestic and soch serwtude to the heights of mythological. historical and religious fantasy. A Woman In Bed could be all three of the women in Rembrandt's life. It depicts Sarah on her wedding night watching her eighth husband defeat the deVil who has killed all the seven previous husbands. Lucretia is a painting of the Roman woman Lucretia who came to represent honour and chastity after she killed herself to save her honour. This is thought to be Rembrandt's tribute to Hendrickje who suffered years of humiliation and then poverty to be with Rembrandt.
The perception you l()£lVl.‘ with is that beauty is not a fixed state and Rembrandt saw fantastical beauty wherever he looked. (Isabella Weir)
JOHN TIMBERLAKE AND SANDY GRANT
Collective Gallery. Edinburgh. until Sun 2’1? .Jul 00.
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John Timberlake‘s Materialism and Empirio Criticism
Making the most of the sun: YR1 winner Mark Wilkinson
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