Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Rembrandt's on the way to N.C.

No matter how hard Charlotte tries for the cultural major league, one thing is probably beyond reach: landing some Old Master art works to anchor the city's museums.

Museums elsewhere that had a head start by decades or centuries got first crack at the big names, of course. When something notable goes on the market, the price involves the kind of money that Charlotte doesn't deal in -- at least not for art. (If anyone out there has tens of millions of dollars to work with and wants to prove me wrong, go for it.)

One of the hopes for the new Mint Museum Uptown is that it will be able to bring in touring shows offering Charlotte a glimpse of what it doesn't possess full-time. Until then, for art lovers who are willing to hit the road, the N.C. Museum of Art in Raleigh is stepping in with "Rembrandt in America."

The show, which opens Oct. 30, will include more than 30 of the Dutch master's paintings. They come from private collections and more than two dozen U.S. museums -- including New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art and Boston's Museum of Fine Arts. (Speaking of museums that recently expanded: A few weeks after the Mint Uptown opened, Boston's MFA unveiled a $345 million American-art wing.)

The paintings in Raleigh will include the fruits of Rembrandt's successful career as a portrait painter, such as his "Joris de Caulerij" (pictured); his historical and biblical scenes; and three of his self-portraits. As another way to open viewers' eyes to Rembrandt, the show will also include more than a dozen paintings that were once thought to be his, but are now attributed to others.

"Questions of authenticity have plagued Rembrandts for centuries, even during the artist's own lifetime," writes Jon Seydl, a curator at the Cleveland Museum of Art. The confusion reached all the way to the N.C. Museum: Its first director, William Valentiner, was a Rembrandt specialist who "greatly expanded" the list of works ascribed to him, the museum's announcement says. More recent scholars have cast doubt on many of Valentiner's attributions -- including those of two paintings the N.C. Museum bought on his recommendation.

The show will help viewers look, examine and decide for themselves. But Valentiner won't be able to give his side of things: He died in 1958.

The show will run through Jan. 22, then move on to museums in Cleveland and Minneapolis. Details: