A PAINTER with so marked a personality as Rembrandt, with his warmth of golden colour, would be less safe for the student to attempt to approach than the more sober-hued Van Dyck and Velazquez, where departures from the silver light of nature are less perceptible. But underlying the golden hue there is a mighty resourcefulness that will repay no end of research.
We are for the moment less concerned with the overflowing human sympathy with which this greatest of poetic painters has invested every being he has portrayed, than with an analysis of his workmanship ; but as his every touch, every shade, every gesture, is impregnated with humanity, we should do well, while investigating his means of expression, to keep in touch with the spirit inherent in his work.
The portrait of himself as a youngish man is smooth, almost polished in surface, for him, tight and detailed in the drawing, fine in colour, but has no signs of the daring use of pigment seen in his later work. Nor is it possible with so much completeness of detail to combine absolute freedom of brushwork. On the other hand, the sureness and vigour he exhibits later in life is the outcome of the knowledge gained by this close application in his earlier studies ; and it is well to remember that to attempt to begin where he left off would result in those pretentious daubs that expose all their weaknesses, including the pretensions.
The " Portrait of an Old Lady," in the white cap and ruff, is executed in the Rubens manner. Look closely into it and you will find that the burnt Siena shadows of the first ébauche are here and there left transparent. The warm over-painting with liquid stumbling is very like that of the Flemish master. It is freely and rapidly executed, and with small brushes the varnish impasto is touched solidly in the lights.
The cap, so exquisitely modelled, is in a like manner thinly floated over the dark of the ground and the white of the ruff.
Now turn to the "Woman Bathing " and examine the consummate rendering of flesh in the bosom, head, and legs, the riot of fat paint in the chemise, and the rich glazes in the coloured draperies on the bank by the pool.
This is certainly a study to copy some day, not so much with the idea of making an exact replica —that would have too restraining an effect—but rather with the purpose of rendering its unctuous properties.