Some years ago, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam closed for renovation. This resulted in a large contingent of Dutch Masters paintings coming to the National Gallery in Melbourne. At this point I had not yet been to Europe, so I had never seen paintings by the old masters in the flesh; so I went to Melbourne with much anticipation.
I felt a direct lineage from their work to what I was trying to create now. For me as an Australian living in the new world but coming from a Dutch heritage [Dutch mother], it evoked a connection to my cultural heritage and an insight as to why I love this genre of art so much. This was also my first contact with works by Rembrandt, the artist I have come to value above all others. The first painting I saw by this great master instantly saw tears welling in my eyes.
On returning home I embarked on my Rembrandt phase. I find it really exciting copying Rembrandt’s paintings. Although from a distance the works look photo realistic, they really are not. The great master creates marks which look completely inappropriate up close, like blotches and blobs, even scribble and scratch marks from the back of his brush. However from a distance these marks not only create the right effect but also add potency and drama.
Copying a Rembrandt is such a treat because I must apply total scrutiny and this reveals a constant treasure trove of delightful surprises, exposing me to the artist’s true genius.
I love the painting of Titus as a Monk, as it is almost completely in brown, but manages to look vital and dramatic. Rembrandt created so many different hues of brown that he did not need to expand his palate. The brown is contrasted by the young monk’s face, which glows with rich creams, soft pinks and delicate yellows.
These colours are further highlighted by the subtle shadows falling across Titus’s face. The expression is timeless, a sensitive young man alone with his thoughts. Although the boy is heavily cloaked, he seems exposed and vulnerable, his facial details illuminated, revealing his soul.