“Legacy of Decency: Rembrandt, Jews and Danes,” a powerful new art exhibition, debuts Feb. 29 at Elverhoj Museum of History and Art. Featured are a selection of 21 prints by Dutch Master Rembrandt. The art is paired with displays about the Danish World War II rescue of the country’s Jewish population. This exhibition links people, time and place through artwork and action with a legacy created by neighbors who cared for, and about, one another.
“The series of small prints present a powerful message and encourage the viewer to get up close and engage,” said Elverhoj Executive Director and exhibit curator Esther Jacobsen Bates. “It’s exciting to bring works by an artist of this renown to Solvang.”
The art is from the collection of Howard and Fran Berger, gift to Westmont Ridley-Tree Museum of Art.
Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (1606-1669) was an innovative and prolific painter, printmaker and draughtsman and is generally considered one of the greatest visual artists in the history of art. He lived and worked in Amsterdam, a city well-known for its welcoming spirit towards the thousands of Jewish migrants and refugees who survived the Inquisition and had been expelled from Spain and Portugal.
The prints on view highlight the artist’s nuanced relationship with Amsterdam’s Jewish citizens. They are detailed and intimate, much like Rembrandt’s relationship with his subjects, many of whom were neighbors and friends.
Rembrandt’s legacy as an etcher is characterized by the new and innovative techniques he introduced to printmaking. Rembrandt’s legacy of decency is displayed in his art as he added emotional and psychological depth to his subjects through expressive faces, dramatic body language, and bold use of shadow and light.
The humanity Rembrandt expressed in his artwork continues to resonate today, nearly 400 years later. This concept of caring is also found in jantiloven – the unofficial Danish law for “no one is better than the other.” The jantiloven principle that everyone is accepted and equal plays a key part in Danish culture and mentality as was exemplified by the remarkable story of the Danish WWII resistance. Posters from the Danish Museum of Resistance in Copenhagen tell about a few intense weeks in 1943 when a “living wall of people” raised up and rescued over 95 percent of the Jewish population in Denmark from the Holocaust.
Exhibition programming includes a gallery talk on March 14 with art professor Lisa DeBoer. “Rembrandt and His Jewish Neighbors” is the topic of the 4 p.m. event. More exhibition programming can be found at Elverhoj.org.
Elverhoj Museum of History and Art, located at 1624 Elverhoy Way in Solvang, is open Wednesday through Sunday from 11 am to 4 pm. There is no charge for admission. Suggested donation is $5. For more information, phone the Museum at (805) 686-1211.
“Legacy of Decency” will remain on display through May 24.