By Peter Tormey
SPOKANE, Wash. – Saint Ignatius of Loyola, who founded the Society of Jesus in 1534, believed artists bear an enormous social responsibility to illustrate God’s greater glory, which is the reason a comprehensive Jesuit education includes the arts. In celebration of Gonzaga’s 125th Anniversary, its Jundt Art Museum offers further evidence of God’s intervention in the world through the hand of the artist with an exhibition of 10 original prints of Rembrandt.
The prints are from plates created in the 1600s by Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, a painter and printmaker. They are among 18 Rembrandt originals in Gonzaga’s Permanent Collection. The Dutch artist, widely considered the world’s pre-eminent draftsman, demonstrates a transcendent character of line drawing – lyrical in its fluidity and free-flowing nature.
Fittingly, “A Lyrical Line: Rembrandt and Others” graces the Jundt’s Arcade Gallery through March 16 (2013).
“There’s nothing superfluous,” said Karen Kaiser, interim director of the Jundt, who curated the exhibition. For the prints in this show, Rembrandt used special tools to create impressions on the surface of copper plates that had been treated with acid-resistant material. The plates were then put into an acid bath, which etched lines into the plate where the artist had drawn. The etched plates were then inked and run through a press to transfer them to paper. Beautiful and exacting line drawing lies at the heart of Rembrandt’s prints, Kaiser said.
“There is no accident to what he has done. His drawing is so natural, so economical – anything more and you kill it, anything less is not enough,” she said. “Drawing is the foundation for printmaking. The nature of drawing is linear. Rembrandt interpreted what he sees and, at the same time, described the reality of it.”
Because the Rembrandt prints are relatively small in size, it was important to balance the exhibition with the addition of works of other major artists in Gonzaga’s Permanent Collection, Kaiser said. While Rembrandt’s line character forms the show’s foundation, the other major artists also were chosen based on their unique use of line.
Comprising the balance of the exhibition are works by Sigmund Abeles, whose art focuses on the psychological and expressive aspects of the human figure; Leonard Baskin, a prolific printmaker, sculptor, watercolorist, writer and illustrator of books who is considered among the universal artists of the 20th century (and was a visiting artist at Gonzaga in 1996); Thomas Hart Benton, an artist who was at the forefront of the Regionalist movement and whose work is instantly recognizable; and Philip Pearlstein, known most for his treatment of the nude and whose works adorn 63 U.S. museum collections. Rounding out the exhibition are prints by Jane Dunning Baldwin, Charles Bartlett, Albert Besnard, Danni Pierce, and Camille Pissarro.