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Monday, April 10, 2017

Gerbrand van den Eeckhout

Josef and His Brothers, 1657, Gerbrand van den Eeckhout
Normally, we judge an artist by the quality and quantity of his or her output over the course of their working career. To some degree, extenuating factors such as their popularity during the lifetime, their accumulated wealth, their personalities, hardships, and the shrewd efficiency of their marketing agents contribute to our thinking as to their worth (not to mention the worth of their work). In rare cases we consider yet another factor--the quality and quantity of their students. All those factors can be summed up in a single word--influence. If we apply all the aforementioned attributes to the iconic Dutch painter, Rembrandt van Rijn, then a case could easily be made that he was among the top half-dozen greatest artists of all time.
Depending upon your criteria, some might prefer the
van den Eeckhout version to that of Rembrandt.
Reproduction tones vary tremendously with this work.
(The one just above may be more accurate than the detail.)
Though his name is not of the "household" variety, one of Rembrandt's best and favorite students was named Gerbrand van den Eeckhout (which, alone, may go a long way in explaining why he's not a household name). Despite the name, he's is high on the short list of Rembrandt students who drive art authenticators to find another line of work. Almost from the beginning they've been confusing the work of student and master. That's not to say they're identical (as seen in the comparison above), but the differences are subtle and involve the sharp-eyed detective work the likes of Sherlock Holmes, Dick Tracy, and Fearless Fosdick combined.

There's much more to be gained by misattributing a
van den Eeckhout to Rembrandt than vice versa.
Portrait of a Six-Year-Old Boy
Holding an Apple, 1656,
Gerbrand van den Eeckhout.
(Not a self-portrait.)
Gerbrand van den Eeckhout was born in 1621. He was born, lived, and worked in Amsterdam, all his life (he was buried there too in 1674). Van den Eeckhout was not just a painter but a poet as well, who mastered several art media, includ-ing metalwork, etching, and drawing. He is, however, best known for his biblical, genre, and portrait paintings. Similarly, he was not just a gifted student of Rem-brandt, but also a close friend. Van den Eeckhout’s style, particularly in the bib-lical paintings, is based so closely on those of his master that it's little wonder so many of his pictures have been taken as works by Rembrandt himself. Any differences in their work can usually be attributed to van den Eeckhout succes-sfully adopting the broader and bolder technique of Rembrandt’s mature style.

Both works are by van den Eeckhout, but the earlier, (1662)
Christ in the Temple (directly above), bears the hallmark of
Rembrandt's palette while the later Presentation in the Temple (above-top) is more distinctively his own.
In general (but not always), van den Eeckhout tends to be more colorful in his work than Rembrandt as seen in his Josef and His Brothers (top), from 1657. Another key difference in their work is that van den Eeckhout seems to be firmer, more illustrative, and less painterly than Rembrandt's. The illustrative quality of van den Eeckhout's later work can be seen in his Isaac Blessing of Jacob (below) dating from 1642.

Isaac Blessing Jacob, 1642, Gerbrand van de Eeckhout.
Painted in the same year, van den Eeckhout's Jacob's Dream (below) is more hard-edged than Rembrandt's usual style, but also more colorful, with van den Eeckhout using greens and crimson tones that Rembrandt seldom or never used. Still, until fairly recently, these differences have largely gone unknown or been ignored. Although it's important to know the work of both painters intimately, I have to think that much of the misattribution in the past has had economic factors at its root. A Rembrandt is often worth about ten times that of a van den Eeckhout painting.

Jacob's Dream, 1642, Gerbrand van den Eeckhout

Now that you're an expert, can you tell the difference (without going to Google)?
Is this a Rembrandt or a van den Eeckhout?
(Answer tomorrow--just above)

This sad looking mongrel is
definitely by van den Eeckhout.


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