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Masters in Art, Vol. 1

Masters in Art, Vol. 1

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Excerpt from Masters in Art, Vol. 1: Part 6; Rembrandt

And if, seeking to discover the means by which such marvels are produced, we look into the picture for an explanation, do we find it by saying, as so many critics have con tented themselves with saying, that Rembrandt was a consummate master of chiaroscuro? Not if we mean by chiaroscuro the play and opposition of light and shadow, in which dark waves, shaded, deepened, thickened, revolve around bright centres which are thereby made to appear more distinct and radiant, and yet in which the darkness is transparent, the half-darkness easy to pierce, and even the strongest colors have a sort of penetrability which prevents their being black. This form of expression was by no means either the invention or the exclusive quality of Rembrandt. All the great Italians, notably Leonardo and Titian, have used it; nay, Rembrandt in his other self the realist, the exterior man - used it consummately. Indeed it was the native and necessary form in which Rembrandt, in either of his personalities, always expressed his ideas. Surely this does not explain the mystery.

But let us take a step further: let us admit (and it is undeniably true) that this ideal ist, this dreaming Rembrandt, was more than a mere master of chiaroscuro, - that he was the greatest master of it that has ever lived, and that because it was so intimately adapted to his genius, he developed it into a means of expression of which it had never before nor has it since been capable. Admit that under his hand, misty, veiled, discreet.

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