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2008 | 33 | 247-258

Article title

ELUSIVE PAINTING BY REMBRANDT. GEORG SIMMEL'S PHILOSOPHIC ATTEMPT TO INTERPRET THE OEUVRE OF THE DUTCH MASTER (Nieuchwytny obraz Rembrandta. Georga Simmla filozoficzna próba interpretacji oeuvre holenderskiego mistrza)

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The purpose of this paper is to present and analyze the interpretation of Rembrandt's art in the thought of the German philosopher and sociologist Georg Simmel (1858-1918). His essay 'Rembrandt. Ein kunstphilosophischer Versuch' (Leipzig 1916) is an example of the postromantic reception of work of the 17th century painter in Germany, especially in the intellectual and artistic milieu of Berlin, where he participated in the course of art history and spent many years since 80. of the 19th century till 1914. Simmel - a friend of Rilke, Weber and Rodin - took part in the discussion on the modern culture and society. At the highest point of the worldwide interest in Rembrandt's art and life and at the crucial moment of scientific research on his work and professional connoisseurship, created Simmel a sketch, which is - in the method of description an amalgam of art philosophy and critics. Simmel's ahistorical interpretation, focused on Rembrandt's portraits, was an illustration of his philosophy and its main category of life (Leben). In the opinion of the German philosopher the Dutch artist found a way to express the absolute continuity of life. On the contrary to the timeless and abstract beauty of classical and renaissance portraits, Rembrandt's effigies were distinguished by an intimate depiction of the human existence and a new kind of narration, opposed to the Lessing's idea of fruitful moment. Rembrandt regarded as a painter who caught the stream of life was to achieve the greatest results in the portraits of old people, in particular his self-portraits. The artist, compared by Simmel with Titian, found an artistic form which was adequate and close to life in the 'painterly', wide manner of painting, exposition of colour and specific unfinished (Unendliche) of the work. Some of Simmel's ideas had however an anticipation in earlier historiography. The critical and esthetical context of his categories is analyzed in this article. Simmel's essay on Rembrandt's painting is an interesting trial of creating a new ideal of modern art existing beyond the classical norms. According to Simmel's discourse art is able to recover the lost spiritual unity of the human being, who cannot find in life.






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  • Agnieszka Rosales Rodriguez, Muzeum Narodowe w Warszawie, Zbiory Sztuki Nowozytnej Obcej, al. Jerozolimskie 3, 00-495 Warszawa, Poland


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