We spent yesterday at Rembrandt’s house.
Yes, that Rembrandt.
The Rembrandt House Museum (Museum het Rembranthuis) is the house in which Rembrandt lived and worked from 1639-1658. Many of the rooms of the house are furnished and decorated in the way that they were when he lived there more than 350 years ago. The walls are hung with his paintings and etchings and those of his teacher and students. There is a very nice audio tour that leads you through the house and provides all sorts of interesting facts and details about Rembrandt’s life and artwork. For kids, there was a “discovery trail” workbook, where they were asked to answer questions and find interesting facts, kind of like a scavenger hunt. Best of all, there were some really fantastic demonstrations and even a printmaking workshop, where we got to do our own drypoint etching and make a print, working in the same room where Rembrandt’s students studied and worked almost 400 year ago!
First we saw how canvasses, boards, and even copper plates were prepared for painting. Then we saw how the oil paints were made with linseed oil and natural pigments. Paints were made in very small quantities, as needed, and extra paint was stored in pig’s bladders (ewww!).
Then it was on to the printmaking room (the actual room in Rembrandt’s house where he printed!) for a semi-private lesson on etching, dry point, and printmaking. We learned about the specific, innovative techniques Rembrandt used. His use of drypoint and etching in the same piece was unique and innovative. He was truly a master.
The plate that was used in the demonstration above is a reproduction of one of Rembrandt’s pieces – Zeus and Antiope (1659). This copy was hand etched by one of the best living engravers in The Netherlands (he did the engraving for Dutch currency before they switched to the Euro). He’s done a number of reproductions of Rembrandt’s work for the museum. As you might imagine, it is detailed, difficult, painstaking work. Working with a microscope, it took him as long as a year to complete a single piece!
So, standing in the very room where Rembrandt did his printing, not only did we get to learn about the process, we actually got to feel the engraving on the plate, see the plate inked and prepped, plate positioned on the press, paper placed on the plate, wetted, and run through the press.
When the print came off the press, the printmaker gave it to Jette.
How cool is that?!
It is not an original Rembrandt, but it’s about as close as you can get. Wow.
After the printing demonstration, it was our turn to do it ourselves. We headed upstairs to the Pupil’ Studio (the room where Rembrandt’s students worked) for a printing workshop. Each day, 8 people have the opportunity to participate in this workshop and create their own prints in the Pupil’s Studio. It was certainly our lucky day.
Guided by the museum instructor, we created our own drypoint etchings in a plastic plate, inked and prepared the plates and created our prints. It was awesome!
What a great experience. Het Rembrandthuis is awesome!