It is timely that Christopher White chose to revise his study of Rembrandt's etching, 30 years on from when it was first published. This second edition, of what quickly became an authoritative text, incorporates critical reaction to its predecessor as well as the continuing scholarship of the Rembrandt Research Project among others. There have been 16 catalogues raisonnés
of the artist's prints and innumerable exhibition publications, making his etchings the most catalogued works of art in the world. However, few other works have considered the "how", as well as the "what", and set the works in a historical and personal context. Christopher White, a leading authority on Dutch and Flemish Art of the 17th century who edited the accompanying catalogue to the National Gallery exhibition Rembrandt By Himself
, is the ideal man for the job. The line "Would you like to see my etchings?" has never sounded so appealing.
White divides his attention into six considerable chapters: Technique, History, Portraiture, Genre, Nudes and Landscape. The most valuable and ground-breaking is the first, where his explanations of Rembrandt's working methods and techniques give the illusion of peering over the artist's shoulder, such is the vividness with which details of biting, dry point and choice of papers come alive in his accessibly learned prose. The patient care invested in not just assembling, but attractively presenting, mirrors the attentions of the etcher who undertakes a painstaking process with a slow-burning excitement, always with the uncertainty of the end product. This is something for which Rembrandt's temperament seemed entirely suited. In his later life he abandoned his habit of careful pre-planning and allowed the means to influence the ends, a flexibility which was entirely characteristic of him as an artist across the board. He was never afraid to experiment, his reasons for working were as pragmatic as they were visionary and prints were the most successful reproductive propagandists for their maker's art. White's book, as luxurious to handle as to study or peruse, is still the definitive standard by which evaluation of Rembrandt's etchings and their relationship with his drawings and paintings must be judged. It is definitively art history, at its most rewarding and enthralling. --David Vincent
This book will surely be hailed as a pioneering effort. It deserves to be widely read -- by scholars, the general public and, not least, by artists. There is no mumbo-jumbo about Mr White's treatment of his theme. It is written with a touch only found when the author has something of the artistic temperament in his nature.