Rembrandt film deflates the vane and vacuous


Hobart Cornell, Critic-at-Large

Perhaps the greatest painter in European art, Rembrandt van Rijn also became the namesake of a particular style of cinematic lighting used often in Film Noirs and most any moody set piece. Therefore, it should be of no surprise that the brash Baroque artist made for a compelling subject in Alexander Korda’s 1936 British film masterpiece, Rembrandt.

VMFA screens the 85 min bio-pic this Friday, July 19, at 6:30PM in honor of the loan of two of Rembrandt’s earliest surviving paintings on-view in the galleries through December. Beforehand, Dr. Mitchell Merling, VMFA’s Paul Mellon Curator and Head of the Department of European Art, will give a short presentation on the artist’s art and life and will follow the film with a discussion and Q&A.

The movie examines Rembrandt’s mid-to-late life as a chipper and sharp-tongued genius known throughout the Netherlands. He runs afoul of corrupt patrician authorities who insist he paint “properly” after the furor that erupts around the sarcastic, large-scale portrait of the “noble gentlemen,” The Night Watch.

After his cherished wife Saskia dies and his spirit broken, Rembrandt sinks into loneliness and isolation though always proudly defiant. One of the silver screen’s finest actors, Charles Laughton, movingly portrays the master painter etched with precision. Join me at VMFA for a truly rewarding evening of the highest order.

–Hobart Cornell, Critic-at-Large