Rembrandt is Coming to Abbot Hall, Kendal

Abbot Hall Art Gallery will host activities for Lakes Alive 2017, photo by Tony West Outside Abbot Hall Art Gallery (photo by Florence Acland) The Saloon at Abbot Hall, photo by Florence Acland J.M.W. Turner, Windermere, 1821 – Abbot Hall Collection John Ruskin, Rocks & Ferns, 1847 – Abbot Hall Collection

Abbot Hall Art Gallery, Kendal, is one of only three UK host venues for Rembrandt’s Self Portrait at the Age of 63. This much-loved work from the National Gallery Collection is on tour from January to July 2016 as the final painting in the three-year Masterpiece Tour and will be showcased at Abbot Hall Art Gallery from 19 March – 15 May 2016.

This is not like looking at a painting. It is like meeting Rembrandt. You have no idea what to say to him, and fear what he is about to say to you.

Jonathan Jones, critic

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (1606–1669) was born in Leiden, in the Dutch Republic, now the Netherlands. He is generally considered one of the greatest painters and printmakers in European art and the most important in Dutch history. His contributions to art came in a period of great wealth and cultural achievement that historians call the Dutch Golden Age when Dutch Golden Age painting, although in many ways antithetical to the Baroque style that dominated Europe, was extremely prolific and innovative, and gave rise to important new genres in painting.

In this revealing and thought provoking self-portrait, Rembrandt wears a deep red coat and a beret, his hands clasped before him he confronts the viewer with his steady gaze.

Rembrandt, Self Portrait at the Age of 63 © The National Gallery, London
Rembrandt, Self Portrait at the Age of 63 © The National Gallery, London

Self Portrait at the Age of 63 was painted in the final year of Rembrandt’s life and is one of his last pictures before his death on 4 October 1669. Rembrandt painted more self portraits than any other artist of the 17th century, and those executed in his final years, in which he presents himself in a reflective mood, are among the most poignant and challenging.

When the painting was cleaned in 1967, the conservators revealed the damaged signature and date. The X-ray of the picture reveals two alterations to the design. First, a change in the size and colour of the beret, which was originally much larger and all white. Secondly, the original position of the hands was open and the artist was holding a paintbrush. Repainting the hands clasped and without the brush reduces their dramatic impact and draws the viewer’s attention back to the face – portraying Rembrandt as a man rather than an artist.

Showing in an adjacent gallery to Rembrandt’s Self Portrait at the Age of 63 will be a remarkable sequence of portraits, including The Great Picture, from Abbot Hall’s own collection depicting the aging face of celebrated local legend Lady Anne Clifford; born in 1590 her remarkable life overlapped with that of Rembrandt. Four paintings show Lady Anne at various stages of her life, from the opulent lady in her mid-20s in Jacobean dress through to the somberly-attired old woman of 80, whose careworn face echoes that of Rembrandt in his late masterpiece. Lady Anne died in 1676 aged 86 at Brougham Castle, in the room in which her father had been born and her mother had died.

The Great Picture, attributed to Jan van Belcamp © Abbot Hall Art Gallery
The Great Picture, attributed to Jan van Belcamp © Abbot Hall Art Gallery

Situated in the centre of Kendal, Abbot Hall Art Gallery offers a rich mix of art, culture and history whilst undertaking an annual programme of innovative exhibitions. The Gallery holds many fine examples of 18th- and 19th-century painting, as well as a substantial collection of work by Ruskin. Modern artists include German refugee Kurt Schwitters, who also had a local connection – spending his final years in the area – while contemporary works by Bridget Riley, David Hockney and Lucian Freud are also shown.

// Rembrandt’s Self Portrait at the Age of 63

Abbot Hall Art Gallery, Kendal from 19 March – 15 May 2016

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Rembrandt’s Self Portrait at the Age of 63 is a highlight event of Lakes Ignite 2016 – celebrating art and culture in the Lake District that sparks your imagination from 30 April – 22 May, supported by United Utilities.

To enjoy this Lakes cultural event and much more, book your break in the Lake District here