I thoroughly enjoyed reading Rembrandt's Eyes. For me, there are certain books which convey me (as if on a magic carpet) to worlds I could not othgerwise experience. The novels of Tolstoy, Dickens, Balzac, and Joyce, for example. For years, I have wondered about the face in the series of self-portraits painted by Rembrandt. Those eyes, especially the eyes. Many have found fault with this book, questioning its reliability as a biography, as a cultural history, as an analysis of one of the world's greatest painters. I am unqualified to address those criticisms. But I can share with others my sense of delight and wonder as I experienced (albeit vicariously) the world which Rembrandt portrayed and in which he lived. Is that portrayal wholly accurate? I have no idea. With exceptional skill, Schama has transported me back in time...through Rembrandt's paintings...to a world, indeed a universe, I could not otherwise visit. During that journey, my soul as well as my mind was nourished...and my eyes now see with even greater wonder and delight the world in which I live.
One of the pleasures of reading books from your own library is that they are always there for return visits. Reading Hockney's 'Secret Knowledge: Rediscovering the Lost Techniques of the Old Masters' stimulated this reader to probe more deeply into some of the venerated painters. Simon Schama's fine book REMBRANDT'S EYES is like an old friend, an excellent resource book for facts about Netherlands painting, social and political history that so affected the works of the two featured painters Rembrandt … more
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The great 17th-century Dutch artist Rembrandt van Rijn left us so many arresting self-portraits, painted at every stage in his eventful life, that his distinctive face and bearing are a familiar part of the 20th-century cultural landscape, a recognizable presence in galleries across Europe and North America. Nonetheless, the artist himself remains an enigma. Rembrandt was a notoriously difficult man and an inveterate risk taker in life and art: his aspirations to a grandiose Amsterdam lifestyle in the heyday of his popularity as a painter of portraits and large-scale historical works bankrupted him, and he died in relative poverty. His personal effects and treasured collection of paintings and natural rarities were sold off and dispersed, leaving the historian with a tantalizingly scant body of fragmentary records around which to build a convincing biography.
In Rembrandt's Eyes, Simon Schama--the leading historical craftsman of our era, with a career-long commitment to Dutch history--succeeds with consummate skill in bringing the heroic painter of such masterpieces as The Night Watch and Portrait of Jan Six vividly to life. Returning to the bustling Dutch world with which he first made his reputation in the bestselling Embarrassment of Riches (1987), Schama re-creates Rembrandt's life and times with all the verve and panache of a historical novelist--while never for an instant losing his scrupulous grip on recorded fact and detail. The telling surviving fragments of archival...