Rembrandt as Printmaker

Bruce Turnbull 22/12/2006

Rating: 3/5

In celebration of one of the greatest artists of all time, Rembrandt's sole innovation of modern etching is showcased in a fastidiously gloomy collection of work, selected by the British Museum. Born 400 years ago, the luminary pacesetter produced more than 300 hundred prints between 1636 and 1659, some of which commanded higher prices than his illustrious paintings. Displayed in candour within the exhibition are an assortment of early etches and meticulous dry point, heavily consisting of religious inspired events and insidiously interpreted biblical scenes.

The Three Crosses (1653) painfully displays the working progress of a master craftsman. Both the third and forth stages of the work appear in the exhibit, from which many characters are removed to be replaced by an overwhelming darkness, dispelling the image of Christ's condemning coterie to the shadows. Gritty, menacing and sinister, The Three Crosses depicts Christ at his weakest, with only a solitary stream of heaven's light decanting from the skies like a gateway to expiation. Jupiter and Antiope, The Entombment and The Decent from the Cross follow in the same pall of misery, the dominant use of shading and pained expression a sour precedence. Dry in comparison are a collection of landscapes and self-portraits, whilst are as masterfully created, prove innocuous and uninspiring after the dark barrage of the religious works. Rembrandt's trademark quality and vague physical detail are a blessing in itself. Through shadowy landscapes and atypically odd portraits, Rembrandt will continue to propagate his genius for new generations to discover.

Until Dec 31, Laing Art Gallery, New Bridge Street, Newcastle upon Tyne, 0191 232 7734, Mon to Sat 10am to 5pm, Sun 2pm to 5pm, free