Rembrandt: After Life
Painter and sculptor Glenn Brown is a British artist well known for his grotesque re-interpretations of artworks by historical figures such as Salvador Dali, Frank Auerbach and Rembrandt. He encapsulates ideas of the otherworldly through the lens of art history. He distorts through his uniquely turbulent, impasto-like brushstrokes.
In this series Brown was asked to do an exhibition in Rembrandt's house in Amsterdam, so decided to make a number of works specifically for the exhibition and focused solely on Rembrandt.
Brown uses long delicate brushes to create very graphic singular brushstrokes that are almost like caricatures to create a signature style of his own, but also one that refers very much to Rembrandt as seen below in figure 1.
Figure 1. Glenn Brown, Reproduction, 2014.
Brown also made a series of etchings that took Rembrandt's portrait etchings, changed their scales and layered them one on top of the other. He wanted to create the idea that you were seeing too much of the world, you were actually seeing seven or ten etchings all at once, as seen in figure 2.
Figure 2. Glenn Brown, Half-Life (after Rembrandt),2019.
This concept translates to my interest in a diversification of composition that I am a currently looking at through Michelangelo's working drawings from the sixteenth century.
In figure 3 below, Brown is paying homage to Rembrandt, but also attacking him by turning him into this clown figure. He uses an overly bright colour palette borrowed from twentieth century Pop art, used by artists like Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein. He's trying to bring a Pop idea to Rembrandt's work.
Figure 3. Glenn Brown, Poor Art, 2016.
I find it interesting how Brown is borrowing most, if not all of his ideas from other artists, even in reference to the colours used. He attempts to get the viewer to travel with him into the seventeenth century and yet brings the artist into the twenty-first century.
In this painting, Des Mutter des Kunstlers, seen in figure 4, Brown takes the idea of artists like Picasso and Matisse removing the eyes, one step further, and completely removes the head. Therefore you have no sense that you have a relationship with the figure.
Figure 4. Glenn Brown, Die Mutter des Kunstlers, 2016.
I find this idea very interesting given I have questioned the use of the face and the eyes in my work to remain somewhat anonymous. Brown has taken it one step further by removing the head altogether.
I feel this does remove the likelihood of the viewer connecting with the subject, especially if attempting to engage with the viewer in a emotional or intellectual way.
I do resonate with Browns comments in his interview about this series when he says,
" An awful lot of the world hasn't changed, we still love, and we still fear death, we still feel pain in the same way we did in the seventeenth century, and probably most of the emotions we feel haven't changed."1
So in this way I feel Brown's work is also attempting to connect with the viewer in a similar way that I attempt to. This gives me a wider understanding of the other artists in my field and how they may have similar intentions to me but use different methodology's and processes that I can consider.
Glenn Brown ,"From ' Glenn Brown: Rembrandt: Afterlife'-YouTube", February 7, 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RAgsrvcBdKI.
Glenn Brown, Reproductions, 2014, oil on panel, 135cm x 101cm, Rembrandt House Museum, Amsterdam.
2. Glenn Brown, Half-Life (after Rembrandt), 2017, etching, 89cm x 68cm, Paragon, London.
3. Glenn Brown, Poor Art, 2016, oil on panel, 108.5cm x 74cm x 2.2cm, Rembrandt House Museum, Amsterdam.
4. Glenn Brown, Die Mutter des Kunstlers, 2016, oil on panel, 200cm x 162cm, Rembrandt House Museum, Amsterdam.