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Dutch museum's remodeling sends Rembrandt on a U.S. tour

September 25, 2006|James Hannah | Associated Press

DAYTON, Ohio — They're remodeling his place, so Rembrandt is taking a vacation.

Six paintings and several etchings by Rembrandt van Rijn as well as works from other Dutch masters -- long housed in the Netherlands' national Rijks museum in Amsterdam -- are hanging in the Dayton Art Institute on the first stop of a U.S. tour.

The traveling exhibit opened to the public Sunday and will be in this Midwestern city for three months before moving on to Phoenix and then Portland, Ore. It comes on the 400th anniversary of Rembrandt's birth.

"Never before has a collection of this quality left our museum and waltzed into the United States," said Peter Sigmond, the Rijksmuseum's director of collections. "It's really the core collection of our museum."

The exhibit includes the Rembrandt masterpiece and much-recognized "Self-Portrait as the Apostle Paulus," along with "The Music Lesson," "Still Life With Dead Peacocks" and "The Denial of Saint Peter."

The exhibit, "Rembrandt and the Golden Age of Dutch Art: Treasures From the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam," also includes self-portraits, still lifes and landscapes painted by other Dutch masters such as Jan Steen, Frans Hals, Jacob van Ruisdael, Jan van Goyen and Nicholaes Maes.

The decision to part with the paintings temporarily came when it was determined that the renovation and modernization of the Rijksmuseum, expected to continue until 2009, would limit the display of its collections.

Museum officials decided to turn it into an opportunity to give the United States a taste of Rembrandt. The Dayton museum wasted no time in making a pitch to host the exhibit.

"It is really a negotiating process. We go in and say, 'We want all the best stuff,' and they say, 'That's not going to happen,' and you negotiate," said J. Bradford Tillson, interim director of the Dayton museum. "We got a lot of good stuff."

Sigmond said there are several Rembrandt masterpieces, including "The Night Watch" and "The Jewish Bride," that will never be allowed to travel outside the Rijksmuseum. However, he said he could not recall a time when six Rembrandt paintings had gone on display together outside of his museum.

"You really have a very important part of our Rembrandts here in this show," he said. "We feel very confident that our paintings, our treasures, are here in good hands, and we hope many Americans will come."

Tillson would not say how much the Dayton Art Institute and its sponsors are paying in rental fees -- only that it is six figures. Officials are expecting as many as 50,000 visitors.

Mary Connolly, 59, who teaches childhood education at Sinclair Community College in Dayton, got a sneak preview of the exhibition on Friday. "It's glorious," she said.

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