© 2024 Connecticut Public

FCC Public Inspection Files:
WPKT · WRLI-FM · WEDW-FM · Public Files Contact
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Rembrandt's Unsparing Eye

Saturday is the 400th birthday of one of the greatest painters of the Western world, Rembrandt van Rijn. The Dutch master's canvases told stories from history and the Bible, and he was the leading portrait painter of his day.

Today's artists and historians say what has carried through the centuries is Rembrandt's honesty and passion for truth. He painted what he saw: wrinkles, crags, warts. He spared no one... including himself. His 75 self-portraits are remarkable for their unflattering detail.

Walter Liedtke, curator at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, says that Rembrandt's hardships -- losing a wife, a companion, three children and suffering a bankruptcy -- are evident in his 1660 self-portrait.

The painting overall has a murky tone, but the face is extremely detailed, says Liedtke, showing the furrows in the brows, skin that appears to glisten with moisture, an off-centered dent above the nose, and hair bunched over an ear.

"It's extraordinary given that he's doing a self-portrait," says Liedtke, "how much attention he's paid simply to the behavior of light for its own sake. His brush is pitiless."

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Nationally renowned broadcast journalist Susan Stamberg is a special correspondent for NPR.

Stand up for civility

This news story is funded in large part by Connecticut Public’s Members — listeners, viewers, and readers like you who value fact-based journalism and trustworthy information.

We hope their support inspires you to donate so that we can continue telling stories that inform, educate, and inspire you and your neighbors. As a community-supported public media service, Connecticut Public has relied on donor support for more than 50 years.

Your donation today will allow us to continue this work on your behalf. Give today at any amount and join the 50,000 members who are building a better—and more civil—Connecticut to live, work, and play.