Exotic and mysterious, both on paper and on stage

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I consider Rembrandt not only to be one of my favorite artists, but also one of my closest friends. As a teenager, I fell in love with his art – so personal, so intimate, so mysterious… And, unlike so many Old Masters, we know quite a lot about his life.

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Left: Shah Jahan (detail), about 1656–61, Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn. Dark brown ink and dark brown wash with scratching out on Asian paper toned with light brown wash. The Cleveland Museum of Art, Leonard C. Hanna, Jr. Fund 1978.38. Image © The Cleveland Museum of Art Right: Jujhar Singh Bundela Kneels in Submission to Shah Jahan (folio from Minto Album; detail), 1630–40, Bichitr. Opaque watercolor and gold on paper. Trustees of the Chester Beatty Library. Image © Trustees of the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin, CBL In 07A.16

The new exhibition at The Getty Museum, Rembrandt and the Inspiration of India, introduces us to a rather intriguing aspect of Rembrandt’s art during the late years of his life. For several years, between 1656-61, Rembrandt looked at paintings made by artists working in Mughal India, and made a series of precise drawings inspired by these Indian portraits.

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Left: 17. Govardhan. Indian (Mughal), active 1596–ca. 1645. Shah Jahan Enthroned with His Son Dara Shikoh, ca. 1630–40. Opaque watercolor and gold on paper. San Diego, The San Diego Museum of Art, Edwin Binney 3rd Collection, 1990.347. Image: San Diego Museum of Art, USA / Bridgeman Images. Right: Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn. Dutch, 1606–1669. Shah Jahan and Dara Shikoh, ca. 1656–61. Brown ink and brown wash with white opaque watercolor and scratching out on Asian paper toned with light brown wash. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

20 of these drawings by Rembrandt are paired with the Indian paintings and drawings that inspired him. Today, we think of the Internet as the way to connect the four corners of the world. But, in the 17 th century, the Dutch were already successfully trading with the whole world, exchanging ideas, culture, and goods.

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L:  Attributed to Bichitr Indian (Mughal), active 1615–50. Folio from the St. Petersburg Album, Akbar and Jahangir in Apotheosis, ca. 1640. Opaque watercolor, ink, and gold on paper. Private Collection. R: Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn Dutch, 1606–1669. The Emperor Akbar and Jahangir in Apotheosis, after a Mughal Miniature, ca. 1656–61. Brown ink with brown wash with white opaque watercolor and scratching out on Asian paper toned with light brown wash. Rotterdam, Museum Boijmans van Beuningen (former collection Koenigs), R 36 (PK). Photo: Studio Tromp, Rotterdam. Images courtesy Getty Museum.

This exhibition makes one wonder if all these studies by Rembrandt were meant to be in preparation for a special project – a painting that was either never made, or didn’t survive.

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L:  Cover, Klimt and Schiele Drawings. Katie Hanson. Photo by Edward Goldman. R: Egon Schiele, Nude Self-Portrait, 1910. Watercolor and black chalk on wrapping paper. The Albertina Museum, Vienna. Image courtesy MFA Boston.

And, talking about drawings… take a look at the cover of the catalog for the Museum of Fine Art Boston’s current exhibition, Klimt and Schiele: Drawn. Yes, we know that one shouldn’t judge a book by its cover – but, the design and texture of this catalog is so damn attractive. Both artists – Gustav Klimt and Egon Scheile – died in 1918. This exhibition commemorates the 100-year anniversary of their deaths. If you plan to travel to the east coast, seeing this exhibition is an absolute must.

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The Joffrey Ballet’s Romeo and Juliet. Image courtesy Music Center. 

Now, let’s go back to LA. Last weekend, the Music Center presented two premieres. The first was The Joffrey Ballet’s innovative production of Sergei Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet. The welcome surprise of this production was that it brought the story to the 20 th century, beginning in Mussolini’s Italy of the 1930s. The set design, the costumes, and projected black and white videos reflect the time in which Prokofiev wrote the music for the ballet, which premiered in 1938. An additional delight for me was that this choreography reminded me of the famous opening scene of West Side Story.

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The Joffrey Ballet’s Orpheus and Eurydice. Image courtesy LA Opera.

The second premiere last weekend at the Music Center was Gluck’s opera, Orpheus and Eurydice, a joint production with the LA Opera and the Joffrey Ballet. When the opera premiered in 1762, it included a few dance sequences. But, this new production pairs singing and dancing on equal terms. With its semi-abstract, minimalistic set design and singers and dancers in modern costume, this Orpheus and Eurydice – a classic story of love and loss – feels both timeless and contemporary. This is a pleasure that definitely shouldn’t to be missed…



Benjamin Gottlieb