Written by Ernst van de Wetering, chairman of the Rembrandt Research Project, this book is an awesome scientific journey into Rembrandt the man, his workshop, and the painting techniques of his time.
Lovingly detailed, the book provides amazing perspectives with which to meet Rembrandt’s paintings and drawings, and also those of his students. Considered to be the foremost Rembrandt researcher of our time, van de Wetering is anything but dogmatic when it comes to authenticity; his “workshop approach” not merely allows, but actively encourages, the appreciation of those paintings that turn out to be not from Rembrandt’s own hand, or only partly so.
If you’re a science buff (humanities, social, or natural sciences, no matter), this book is for you. It doesn’t “explain” the paintings, but it doesn’t have to: by the end of the book, you’ll know so much about Rembrandt’s paintings that they pretty much explain themselves, within the parameters of what we know or at least can plausibly assume about Rembrandt’s time. After having read The Painter at Work, the next Rembrandt exhibition we went to became a revelation (which, incidentally, was the terrific “Rembrandt Trilogy” 400th Birthday Exhibition, 2006, in Berlin). Also, the paper quality and the quality of the prints and illustrations in this book is astonishing—in both the hardcover edition I borrowed from the library and the paperback edition I subsequently acquired.