If you thought printmaking was an art forged by millennials/hipsters/modern-day makers, think again.

Rembrandt van Rijn was not only a masterful painter, but a prolific printmaker. More than 100 pieces by the 17th century Dutch artist will be on view for a once-in-a-lifetime exhibit, “Rembrandt: Painter as Printmaker,” at the Denver Art Museum starting Saturday, September 15. The unique and remarkable collection contains biblical, portrait, allegory, still life, landscape, and genre prints created by the painter and printmaker from 1625 to 1665.

“This exhibition brings together perhaps one of the finest assemblages of over 100 of Rembrandt’s best and rarest impressions of his original prints,” says Timothy J. Standring, Gates Family Foundation curator of painting and sculpture at the Denver Art Museum. Because of its worldwide reputation for its quality exhibitions, the DAM was able to persuade institutions to lend works to Denver, according to Standring.

In addition to his prints, the collection features 17 Rembrandt drawings and four paintings that add additional context to his overall production, says Standring. In total, the exhibit reveals a new perspective about the ways in which Rembrandt purposefully altered his prints. “This exhibition will show our visitors proof of Rembrandt’s entrepreneurial, as well as technical finesse as a printmaker,” says Standring. “He made a number of ‘rare’ impressions that appealed to his passionate collectors during his lifetime.”

Rembrandt, Head of an Old Man in a Cap, 1630. Oil paint on panel. Photo courtesy of the Denver Art Museum

Born in Leiden, in the Dutch Republic (now the Netherlands) in 1606, Rembrandt took an interest in art at an early age. At 14, he enrolled at the University of Leiden, but left after three months to study the fundamentals of painting under Dutch artist Jacob Isaacsz van Swanenburgh. In 1624, Rembrandt moved to Amsterdam—where he would remain until his death in 1669—where he studied painting under Pieter Lastman. He quickly achieved success as a painter for his ability to utilize space and light to convey a subject’s emotional expression.

“Rembrandt is a giant,” says Standring. Artists of his time usually traveled to Italy to study Italian art, but Rembrandt stayed close to home to learn from local painters. High-ranking families and influential organizations commissioned work from Rembrandt, growing his success. Apart from his portraits, Rembrandt interpreted texts from the Old and New Testament in his drawings and paintings. He became famously known for mastering the baroque painting style during the Baroque movement in the 17th century. His paintings and etchings such as Belshazzar’s Feast and The Raising of Lazarus embraced dramatic scenes with deep, rich color, dark shadows, and divine light.

Rembrandt, Christ before Pilate, 1635, Large Plate. Photo courtesy of the Denver Art Museum

“Few artists, if any, were able to combine technical mastery with brilliant story telling. He was the Francis Ford Coppola of the 17th century and knew the tricks of dramaturgy as well as any master Hollywood director,” says Standring. “His breadth of storytelling was Shakespearean in his sensitivity to portraiture, religious narratives, mythological episodes, and his native landscape surrounding Amsterdam.”

Today, Rembrandt’s work is displayed in museums around the world. DAM borrowed the majority of the collection from the Bibliothèque nationale de France, with numerous works lent by local collectors, such as Drs. Morton and Tobia Mower. Other lenders include the National Gallery in London, the Louvre in Paris, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., as well as many museums across the Netherlands. After the exhibition, Rembrandt’s works will return to their respective institutions. The exhibit is not to be missed.

“In sum, you’ll take away the experience of seeing a superbly curated exhibition that helps you understand his development as a printmaker, and how he mastered intaglio printmaking of etching, dry point, and engraving,” says Standring.

If you go: DAM will show “Rembrandt: Painter as Printmaker” from September 16 through January 6. Entrance to the exhibition is included with general admission. Members can see a preview on Saturday, September 15 by reserving a free entry ticket.

Victoria Carodine
Victoria Carodine
Victoria Carodine is a Denver-based writer and a former editor on 5280's digital team.