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Rembrandt the Etcher at the MFA

Etching as a printmaking medium emerged in the early 16th century in Germany and Italy, but its full creative potential only was realized with Rembrandt Harmensz. Van Rijn’s activity as an etcher from 1630 to 1661. This exhibition of 45 works, drawn primarily from the MFA’s collection, explores the unprecedented range of subject matter, format, and graphic vocabulary in the nearly 300 etchings that Rembrandt made during his career. He was the first etcher to seriously exploit the expressive effect of printing on different papers (the first Western artist to use Japanese paper, for example) to make radically different inkings of the same plate, and to dramatically alter the image on the plate. “Rembrandt the Etcher”examines how the artist’s etched images can be deliberately pale and delicate or consist of dense webs of profound darkness. They also can be rough sketches or highly finished, meticulously detailed compositions. Among the works on view are Old and New Testaments narratives—some of the most insightful Biblical illustrations ever conceived—as well as self-portraits, landscapes, nudes and scenes of everyday life.


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