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Saturday, February 11, 2012

Rembrandt and the North Carolina Museum of Art

Over the Christmas/New Year holiday, Charles and I made our way to the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh NC to view "Rembrandt in America," touted to be the largest exhibition of Rembrandt paintings ever presented in the U.S. Just under 30 authentic Rembrandts shared space with 20 other pieces originally attributed to him when they entered American collections, but which are now shown to be otherwise - pieces by students, hangers-on and other contemporaries. The pieces were gathered from two dozen American museums and numerous private collections.

The main centerpiece, of course, was Rembrandt's "Self Portrait, 1659" on loan from the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC. Velvet ropes set 5 feet back from the wall made it frustratingly difficult to lean in and study the subtleties of this masterpiece. I'll bet security guards hate encountering the artists in the crowds, always wanting to examine the brushstrokes!

Despite the blustery and wet weather, the crowds were very large on the day we were there. The earliest tickets we could get were for an hour after our arrival, so we headed over to the museum's new addition, the West Building, to see their permanent collection. Boy were we pleasantly surprised! What looks like a warehouse on the outside is a beautiful, sky-lit expansive venue housing an amazingly diverse and high quality array of artworks. We were stunned at every turn.

Rodin is given premier placement, for the NCMA holds the largest collection of his sculpture outside of New York and California, but the galleries surrounding the sculpture court are filled with all kinds of treasures, from the monumental 17th century formal portraits by van Dyke to a small gem of a painting by Sargent we had never seen before. In the end, we were pressed for time (Rembrandt called!) and didn't get to see the ancient art collection. Something to look forward to for our next visit.

Despite the velvet ropes and security's scowls, "Rembrandt in America" was a wonderful exhibition. It has already left North Carolina, but opens soon at the Cleveland Museum of Art (Feb. 19 - May 28, 2012) and then on to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (June 24 - Sept. 16, 2012).

We weren't allowed to photograph the Rembrandts, but other pictures from our visit to the North Carolina Museum of Art are available on Charles Facebook page.

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