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Émile Verhaeren: Essays on the Northern Renaissance

Rembrandt, Rubens, Grünewald and Others- Translated with an Introduction and Notes by Albert Alhadeff

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Albert Alhadeff

Émile Verhaeren (1855–1916), art critic, poet and homme de lettres, was a man whose vision transcended his native Belgium. With close ties to Mallarmé in France and Rilke in Germany, Verhaeren, a peripatetic student of the arts, readily traveled to Paris, Berlin, Cassel, Vienna and Amsterdam. From the mid-1880s until his death in 1916, his many trips abroad resulted in a raft of essays and short monographs on the arts of the Northern Renaissance. Yet, despite the insights, scholarship and markedly precise and revealing descriptions of these studies, they have long been neglected in art historical circles, overshadowed, perhaps, by Verhaeren’s own poetic outpourings and his numerous essays on contemporary art.
In this book, Albert Alhadeff translates, edits, annotates and contextualizes these often brilliant and always revealing studies on artists such as Rembrandt, Rubens, Memling, Bruegel and Grünewald, masters from the North who worked mostly in Flanders, Holland and Germany in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. As Alhadeff reveals, Verhaeren’s studies of the masters of old in Germany, Flanders and the newly born Dutch Republic are as much about Verhaeren the man as they are about the subjects of his inquiries.

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rembrandt REMBRANDT’S PLACE IN DUTCH ART those who hAVe recently pondered Rembrandt’s work have done so with in- formed, intelligent and scrupulous critiques. They have disclosed the details of his life year-by-year, joy-by-joy, grief-by-grief, and sorrow-by-sorrow with great discipline. As a result we know him by these particulars, we are fascinated by his mania for collecting, we know about his plain manners, his fatherly pas- sions, his affairs, successes, decline, and death. An inventory still extant today along with documents pertaining to the instruction of his son have encouraged certain critics to detail the life of this honorable man with the cold precision of accountants. Their meticulous analyses have obstinately poured like a swarm of ants over every aspect of his just renown: they have stripped him bare with an especially unsparing curiosity—although of course with respect—and as of this moment he stands there naked and tormented like the Christ bound to the column that they say he painted to console himself from his creditors. He could well have painted it with his future taskmasters in mind. Modern science—patiently splitting hairs, fussing over trifles with precise instruments—rejoices in breaking down into its components such a glorious and renowned body. Science has tentatively nibbled at it, gnawed at its sides, but she has not made inroads into its enormous critical mass, which is mag- nificent, dark and tenebrous. Our task is to approach this critical mass not by 56 ÉmIle VerhAeren: essAys on the northern renAIssAnce surveying...

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