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Unit xvi rembrandt (1608-1669)

Rembrandt van Rijn is the greatest Dutch master, one of the supreme geniuses in the history of art. To this day the art of Rembrandt remains one of the most profound witnesses of the progress of the soul in its earthly pilgrimage toward the realization of a higher destiny. The son of a prosperous miller, Rembrandt was born in Leiden in 1608. He was trained as a painter by two minor local artists. His rapid success promoted him to move to Amsterdam in 1631.

In 1632 Rembrandt's worldly success was assured. He had more commissions and pupils than he could accept. He married Suskia van Uylenburg, the lovely daughter of a wealthy family. He bought a splendid house, started a collection of paintings and rarities.

The universal artist dealt with many world subjects. Rembrandt painted, engraved and drew more than eighty self-portraits. Rembrandt was a master of portraiture. He created around fifty portraits.

The best group portraitspainted by Rembrandt are the Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Tulp, of 1632, and The Night Watch, of 1642. In the former Rembrandt has not only painted faces, beards and lace ruffles, he has given the composition a new drama. Mystery dominates in his painting, reminding the living of their own inevitable destiny. As for The Night Watch, the members of the Company of Captain F.B. Cocq were dissatisfied with the colossal group portrait. The subject of the painting is the formation of the militia company for a parade. Through wonderful effective lightning Rembrandt has turned a narrative prose into a dramatic poetry. Real events are submerged in the symphonic tide of the colouring. All the men paid equally to have themselves depicted, yet some are sunk in a shadow, one man is concealed except for his eyes. It was inevitable that Rembrandt would lose popularity as a portrait painter, although not at once.

In Amsterdam Rembrandt began to paint in a highly imaginative Baroque style. He was influenced by Caravaggio's sharp light-and-dark contrasts and by Rubens's spiral compositions. A brilliant example of this is the Angel Leaving Tobit and Tobias, of 1637. Rembrandt has followed the book of Tobit available to him as a source in the Apocrypha. The formerly blind Tobit cured by the Archangel Raphael, prostrates himself in gratitude, while his son Tobias looks upward in wonder at the departing figure. Seen sharply from the back the angel is taken from the sight into an open cloud in a flash of light. Along with luminary effects goes a new technical freedom. The smooth, detailed early manner is gone. The forms are quickly sketched.

In 1642 Saskia died. Rembrandt's commissions slackened off as a result of his unconventional painting. In 1655 Rembrandt found himself in the midst of several financial troubles. At that period he painted The Polish Rider. The precise meaning of this painting has not been determined. Probably it is an allegory of the man's earthly journey, its many dangers and uncertain destination. In the grim and rocky valley a pool can be seen. Against the dark hill there is a hut. Near the crest there is a ruined castle. The youth rides in light, alert, with his weapons at ready. The figure and his horse stand forth in a new sculptural grandeur, intensified by the fact that many of the impastos have been laid on with a palette knife. The artist carved the pigments, especially in the dark rocks and the bony forms of the horse.

Etching played a special role in Rembrandt's vast production. He produced more than 290 etchings. For him it was an independent art form. The painter was unique in exploring various etching techniques. His etchings differed from those of his contemporaries in the loose, freehand style. Rembrandt had a large collection of drawings and prints by other artists including Man-tegna, Carracci, Titian, Raphael and Bruegel. He used their works for inspiration, but there was also an element of competition: Rembrandt tried to surpass his predecessors.

Probably in 1669, the year of his own death, Rembrandt painted the Return of the Prodigal Son. This painting stands at the ultimate peak of Christian spirituality, illuminating the relationship of the Self to the Eternity and can be interpreted as union with divine love. This parable was a favourite in the Baroque art. In Rembrandt's dark background one can distinguish two dim faces, a seated figure, and more brightly lighted the law-abiding eldest son. In a spontaneous gesture of loving forgiveness, the gentle, aged father comes into light to press to his bosom the cropped head of his ragged son. Faces are reduced. Only the hands of the father and the tired feet of the son are painted in detail. The painting is an allegory of the earthly pilgrimage of man finding rest and meaning in divine redemption. Rembrandt's language in this work is entirely that of colour and texture. Rich tans and ochres in the prodigal's worn garments are inundated by the glowing red of his father's festal cloak against the deep brown of the encompassing dark; solid masses in thick impastos gleam against the translucent glazed.

The biblical theme was very important to Rembrandt. In 1634 the artist created the Holy Family, John the Baptist Preaching, Ecce Homo. In Ecce Homo Jesus stands before Pilate, the procurator, the man who is to judge him. Pilate, convinced of Christ's innocence, presents him to the people with the words "See, the man!" - in Latin: "Ecco Homo". But the people and the priests cry out that Jesus must be crucified. The Passion of Christ was a popular subject. Rembrandt painted a series of seven pictures illustrating this episode. Abraham's Sacrifice was produced by Rembrandt in 1635. In Christ Appearing to Mary Magdalen, of 1638, Rembrandt shows Mary's shock of recognition.

Moses Breaking the Tablets was created in 1659. The Old Testament recounts that Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt and through the wilderness. At Mount Sinai he received God's laws - the Ten Commandments - written on 'stone tablets'. But while Moses was on the mountain the people built an idol: a golden calf. When Moses came down from the mountain he saw the people dancing around the idol. In the anger he smashed the stone tablets. Rembrandt illustrates the moment just before Moses threw down the tablets.

Besides many paintings of biblical scenes Rembrandt took themes from mythology. In Diana Bathing with her Nymphs, with the Stories of Acteon and Callisto, c. 1634, Rembrandt combined two stories taken from Ovid's Metamorphoses. In the Rape of Ganymede, of 1635, the artist shows how Jupiter, turned into an eagle, carries Ganymede off to Olympus, to place him later in the Heavens as one of the signs of the Zodiac, Aquarius.

Rembrandt was not understood in his own life-time. He died in poverty. But it is the spirituality of his art that distinguishes Rembrandt from his Dutch contemporaries and makes him the greatest artist of the world.

Make sure you know how to pronounce the following words:

Rembrandt []; Leiden [@]; Amsterdam [@]; Metamorphoses [@@]; commandment [@@]; Sinai []; Ovid []; Pilate [@]; Apocrypha [@@]; Abraham [@]; pilgrimage []; archangel [@]; Aquarius [@@@]; Jupiter [@]


Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Tulp - "Урок анатомии доктора Тулпа"

The Night Watch - "Ночной дозор"

The Polish Rider - "Польский всадник"

Return of the Prodigal Son - "Возвращение блудного сына"

Holy Family - "Святое семейство"

John the Baptist Preaching - "Проповедь Иоанна Кресги-теля"

Abraham, 's Sacrifice - "Жертвоприношение Авраама"

Moses Breaking the Tablets - "Моисей, разбивающий скрижали "

Christ Appearing to Mary Magdalen - "Явление Христа Марии Магдалине"

Rape of Ganymede - "Похищение Ганемеда"

Diana Bathing with her Nymphs, with the Stories of Act eon and Callisto - " Диана, купающаяся с нимфами"

Self-Portrait - "Автопортрет"

Suskia van Uylenburg - Саския ван Эйленборх


I. Read the text. Make sure you understand it. Mark the following statements true or false.

1. Rembrandt painted, engraved and drew more than eighty portraits and fifty self-portraits.

2. The Night Watch by Rembrandt was a traditional portrait of the citizen-soldiers in alignment.

3. Mystery dominates in the Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Tulp.

4. The Return of the Prodigal Son is a brilliant example of the highly imaginative Baroque painting.

5. In the Polish Rider the figure and his horse stand forth in a new sculptural grandeur.

6. Rembrandt was not fond of etching.

II. How well have you read? Can you answer the following questions?

1. What does Rembrandt's art remain to this day?

2. Was Rembrandt a master of portraiture? What portraits did he create? What are Rembrandt's best group portraits? What dominates in the Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Tulp?

3. What is the subject of The Night Watch Were the commissioners satisfied with this Rembrandt's work of art? What did they expect? How are they depicted?

4. Why did Rembrandt begin to lose popularity as a portraitist?

5. What is the best example of Rembrandt's highly imaginative painting in the Baroque style? What is represented in this painting?

6. What did Rembrandt paint in 1655?

7. How is The Polish Rider interpreted? How is the youth portrayed? What technique did Rembrandt use in this painting?

8. What role did etching play in Rembrandt's production?

9. What does the Return of the Prodigal Son represent? When was it created? How is the painting interpreted?

10. What mythological paintings did Rembrandt execute?

11. What distinguishes Rembrandt from his contemporaries?

III. i. Give Russian equivalents of the following phrases:

a self-portrait; a study; a master of portraiture; to portray the subjects; a shoulder-length portrait; a half-length portrait; life-size pictures; group portraits; effective lightning; a narrative prose; an imaginative style; luminary effects; a parable; a technical freedom; unconventional painting; to lay on the impastos; a palette knife; to carve the pigments; to produce etchings; to surpass the predecessors: 'stone tablets'; colour and texture; rich tans and ochres; the encompassing dark; to gleam against the translucent glazed; spirituality of the art; the Ten Commandments.

ii. Give English equivalents of the following phrases:

скрижали; прокуратор; библейская тема; окружающая чернота; мастихин; техника офорта; превзойти предшественников; законопослушный; создавать офорты; терять популярность; гамма красок; притча; наложение красок густым слоем; сюжетно-тематический; этюд; многочисленные произведения нетрадиционная живопись; изобразительный стиль; автопортрет; портрет во весь рост; поясной портрет; погрудный портрет; групповой портрет; Десять Заповедей.

iii. Make up questions with the given phrases.

iv. Arrange the following in the pairs of synonyms.

a) carve; dim; various; theme; spiritual; law-abiding;

b) chisel; conventional; diverse; subject; dusky; religious.

IV. Insert the missing prepositions. Translate the text..

Saint Paul at his Writing-Desk, was painted by Rembrandt c. 1629/30. The pious Paul was a fervent opponent ... the Christian religion.... a journey to combat the Christians he was blinded and thrown ... ... a supernatural power. This event changed Paul totally. The enemy ... Christianity became Apostle: now he travelled to spread the Word. Here Rembrandt painted St Paul seated ... his desk ... the corner ... a room. His left hand is illuminated ... a light coming forth ... ... the book ... the desk. This book, and the sword hanging... the wall are the attributes ... St. Paul. The sword refers ... his beheading, while the book refers ... his conversion.

V. Insert the articles whenever necessary. Translate the text..

Rembrandt's Belshazzar's Feast, was created in 1635. ... Babylonian king Belshazzar [@] is celebrating with his nobles, wives and concubines. Everyone is drinking wine from ... vessels stolen from ... Temple in Jerusalem. Suddenly ... divine hand appears and starts writing ... strange script. Daniel was able to decipher ... text: which reads, "Mene mene tekel ufarsin". ... text in Hebrew letters foretold ... death of Belshazzar and ... end of his empire. ... Belshazzar's feast was a warning in ... 17-th century usage: profane feasts always end in ruin. Here Rembrandt portrayed ... dramatic moment. He was ... master when it came to paint violent emotions.

VI. Here are descriptions of some of Rembrandt's works of art. Match them up to the given titles.

1. It is an allegory of the man's earth ly journey.                       

2. Mystery dominates in this painting, reminding the living of their own inevitable destiny.

3. The angel is taken from the sight into an open cloud.

4. The subject of the painting is the formation of the militia company for a parade.

5. This painting stands at the ultimate peak of Christian spirituality.           

6. The text in Hebrew letters foretold the death.

a.    Return of the Prodigal Son

b. Angel Leaving Tobit and Tobias

c. The Polish Rider

d. Belshazzar's Feast

e. Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Tulp

f. The Night Watch

VII. Translate the text into English.

Рембрандту ван Рейну удалось раскрыть сложный внутренний мир человека. Рембрандт писал жанровые и религиозные сцены, портреты, автопортреты.

Традиционная для голландского искусства тема группового портрета в картине Рембрандта "Урок анатомии доктора Тульпа" приобретает новый характер. Картина воспринимается не как групповой портрет, а как жизненный эпизод. В "Ночном дозоре" Рембрандт остановился на моменте, когда по сигналу тревоги на площадь выходят стрелки. В результате получился не групповой портрет, а полная жизненной убедительности сцена. Последней наиболее значительной работой художника является "Возвращение блудного сына".

Рембрандт был выдающимся мастером офорта. Его офорты на самые различные темы: портреты, пейзажи, бытовые и религиозные сцены - отличаются смелостью и разнообразием художественных приемов.

Богатые голландские бюргеры - основные заказчики Рембрандта - не поняли гениального художника. Трагически одиноким, почти нищим умер Рембрандт в 1669 году.

VIII. Summarize the text.

IX. Topics for discussion.

1. Rembrandt's portraits.

2. Rembrandt's biblical paintings.

3. Rembrandt's mythological paintings.

4. Rembrandt as the greatest artist of the world.

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