The Day I Met Rembrandt

Years ago I lived in Amsterdam for five years, on a boat on various canals (we had to move to stay legal). Durning the cold winter mornings I would warm up by going into the Rijksmuseum and stand close to Rembrandt's paintings, I could feel his colors and brush marks warm my soul. One day I noticed a door on the side of the Rijksmuseum that turned out to be the library, by that time I had learned to be bold with the Dutch so I rang the bell and announced my intention of wanting to "research Rembrandt". The door clicked open from above. I talked to the person at the desk and mentioned that I was doing a prototype screensaver to present to the Rembrandt Museum and needed to see more images, he pointed me to a shelf of books. Oh well, nothing too exciting here I thought as I looked through a couple of books. Then the fellow tapped me on the shoulder and motioned me to follow him down to the end of the long reading table where he had positioned a table easel, on the easel was a Rembrandt etching, "The Three Crosses" matted, no glass. "godverdomme' was all I could say. Then he removed that print and replaced it with another version of the Three Crosses, right there in front of me as if just pulled from the press, "did Rembrandt print these?" I asked, "yes" he answered. Then from the portfolio he pulled out another one, I asked him if I could hold it and he said yes. Then came another one until all five states of "The Three Crosses" passed in front of my eyes just inches away, I couldn't believe what I was seeing, Rembrandt was standing right in front of me. My heart beats fast just writing about it, one of the best moments of my life. Then I rode off on my bike, back to the boat on the Prinsengracht, a block from the Westerkerk where Rembrandt is buried. I was amazed beyond expression...... Postscript: Before I left the library I had a conversation with the assistant director, the same person who showed me the etchings, I mentioned that I was an artist and that I had been doing a lot of drypoint etchings and printing them on my wonderful Peter van Ginkel portable press. He invited me to visit him on the following Saturday. So I tied my portfolio to my bike rack and made my way to the Rijksmuseum. His office was in the center of the library, a desk surrounded by six flights of book shelves accesible by ladders, I felt as if I was in a canyon of ancient knowledge. I had to stiffle my desire to climb the ladders and open those treasures. I opened my portfolio and spread out some of my etchings, then the assistant director began to place the etchings around his office, on top of books and papers until his little office looked like my studio. The fruit of my labor, each etching custom colored in two etching runs through the press. My method was to ride my bike, mijn fiets, out into the countryside outside of Amsterdam along the Amstel River to a picnic table that was in the middle of a pasture. I would scratch the copper plate while the cows lumbered by ripping grass from the below sea level fields. My goal was to keep the line evolving, let it flow and see what happens. Of course I wouldn't really know what was there until later that evening when I began to print the plate. One pass through the press for accuracy, another one to add color, this method allowed me to experiment and explore the mystery between color and line. These were the etchings that occupied the ground floor of the library, spread out like some odd currency amidst the refined air of the Rijksmuseum. He picked four of them to buy, I included one for free knowing that the Dutch love a good transaction. He walked me to the door, a hearty Dutch goodbye and I went back to my anchored bike. I tied down my portfolio minus five, and off I rode, stunned by the fact that I had just sold some artwork inside of the Rijksmuseum. A quick pedal back to the little boat on the Prinsengratcht, with the sensation that I had just experienced the Golden Age.