Timeless Rembrandt masterpiece on display in Brighton for the first time

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A timeless masterpiece by artist Rembrandt was unveiled for the first time ever in Brighton as part of a nationwide celebration of the 200th birthday of the National Gallery in London.

Self Portrait at the Age of 34, 1640 was painted by Rembrandt nearly 400 years ago and is considered one of his most beautiful and fascinating works of art.

Inspired by the painting, a group of young people have produced self-portraits in a collaboration with Brighton Museum and national arts charity Photoworks which will be displayed alongside the Rembrandt.

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CEO for Brighton & Hove Museums Hedley Swain said: “We are so excited to be able to display this wonderful masterpiece in Brighton Museum & Art Gallery for the first time ever. Rembrandt is one of the greatest artists in history and it is a privilege to be able to share it with everyone.

Rembrandt, 1606 – 1669 Self Portrait at the Age of 34, 1640Rembrandt, 1606 – 1669 Self Portrait at the Age of 34, 1640
Rembrandt, 1606 – 1669 Self Portrait at the Age of 34, 1640

“Even better is that the painting has inspired young people to create their own artworks which will be displayed alongside the Rembrandt – an experience they will never forget.”

Rembrandt’s Self Portrait’s appearance in Brighton is part of National Treasures, twelve exhibitions opening on 10 May 2024, the day the National Gallery turns 200 years old. More than half the UK population will be within an hour’s journey of a National Gallery masterpiece.

Time travel, celebrity and self-projection

Rembrandt Van Rijn (1606 – 1669) was a Dutch, Golden Age painter, printmaker and draughtsman. In the striking self-portrait, the artist presents himself in a confident pose, dressed in expensive-looking fur, velvet and jewels but all is not what it seems. His sophisticated clientele would have noted that the painting style, colours and ‘trompe ‘l’oeil’ pose echo those in the earlier Renaissance paintings by artists such as Titian and Raphael.

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Rembrandt’s contemporaries would have known that his impressive costume is very old-fashioned. He is portraying himself as a Renaissance gentleman, dressed in the fashions from over a century earlier to pay homage and compare himself to the most famous artists of that earlier time.

Rembrandt was projecting an image of himself as he would like to be perceived and claiming a much higher social status than artists had at that time.

Like Rembrandt, the Photography Club participants who have produced the work shown alongside this self-portrait have also explored the themes of time travel, celebrity and self-projection.

Young people inspired by old master

In this collaboration between Brighton & Hove Museums and Photoworks, a small group of young people have taken the Rembrandt self-portrait as the starting point.

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Under the guidance of photographic artist Alejandra Carles-Tolra, the group have explored visual culture from the past to the modern age. They were challenged to express how they would like to be seen by their peers, when, like Rembrandt, they reach the age of 34.

The resulting images create an exciting dialogue between a long-dead old master and vibrant, young future talent. This innovative body of work compliments the Rembrandt painting and subverts and challenges the traditional conventions of self-portraiture. These new images examine visual culture and self-projection in not only the past and present, but also in a speculative future.

Photoworks Learning & Engagement Consultant Juliette Buss said: “We’re thrilled to have been able to collaborate with the museum and the National Gallery to create this opportunity for young people to work with an award-winning photographer and exhibit alongside Rembrandt. Their artworks create a powerful dialogue between past and present notions of representation.”

In addition to the exhibition, Brighton & Hove Museums is hosting a series of talks on the Old Master. The ‘Talking Rembrandt’ series features speakers including Dr David Bomford, Bart Cornelis and Brighton & Hove Museum’s very own Alexandra Loske. The talks which take place on 29 May, 12 June and 26 June at 11am in the Old Courthouse will explore a range of subjects from self-portrait secrets to artist palettes.

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