Sunday, 27 January 2008

A moment frozen in time

Preparing for the start, London, July 2007

This week's masterpiece (after last week's Renoir) was Rembrandt's "Nightwatch". If you've never seen it in the flesh, I can recommend it for the experience - I'm not sure I've ever seen a painting with such presence, a combination of its reverential position in the Rijksmeusem, it's sheer size and the quantity of visitors it attracts.

Today's interesting observation, however, was about the way the event has been captured. For the time (1642) it was a rather ambitious (even daring) move to depict such a group portrait in this way and technically innovative to imbue such a sense of motion to the picture (a signature of Rembrandt's style). It was stated in the TV programme that this captures a specific moment in time, just as the group were setting off. As viewers we arrive at just the right moment, any earlier and nothing is happening, any later and they are away.

This is Cartier-Bresson's decisive moment captured some three centuries before he coined the phrase, coupled with an almost photographic sense of dramatic lighting.

I distinctly got the feeling that Rembrandt was working within the limits of medium unsuited to his vision. If he were alive today, I think he would be a great photographer - a medium with which he could fulfil his vision to its greatest potential.

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