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Last days for Rembrandt, et al, at the Frick Pittsburgh

Rembrandt's 1658 self-portrait.
The Frick Collection, New York
Rembrandt's 1658 self-portrait (shown here in a detail) remains at the Frick Pittsburgh through Sunday.

This is WESA Arts, a weekly newsletter by Bill O'Driscoll providing in-depth reporting about the Pittsburgh area art scene. Sign up here to get it every Wednesday afternoon.

You scarcely need enter the Frick Pittsburgh galleries housing the exhibit “Vermeer, Monet, Rembrandt” to view what some might consider its most memorable work. Rembrandt’s “Self-Portrait,” from 1658, is life-sized, hung dead center on the first wall you see, and about as commanding as classic portraiture gets.

The artist, stocky and weathered at 52, was at a financial low point when he made the picture, for which he’s arrayed himself in the richly hued garments of a monarch, his artist’s maulstick repurposed as a scepter.

But you don’t have to know anything about Rembrandt van Rijn, really, to get a jolt from this painting, which — like more than half of the 60 works in this show — is on loan from New York’s famed Frick Collection.

The first time I saw this self-portrait, I immediately subtitled it “Rembrandt Has Had Enough of Your Crap.” I don’t know if that’s what he meant to say, but I’m sticking with it.

At any rate, Rembrandt’s 418th birthday is July 15 — one day after this once-in-a-lifetime exhibit closes.

It’s once-in-a-lifetime because it’s the first show ever to mingle the Frick Collection — launched by industrialist Henry Clay Frick — and the Frick Art & Historical Center’s collection, the work of his daughter, Helen Clay Frick. And for Pittsburghers, it’s likely the last chance to see dozens of select masterpieces from the Frick Collection in person without leaving town. (The New York museum is currently closed for renovations, which helped make this show possible.)

One such masterpiece is Vermeer’s “Girl Interrupted at Her Music,” one of just three dozen Vermeers in existence. (That Monet in the show’s title, the luminous “Banks of the Seine at Lavacourt,” was purchased by the elder Frick, but now belongs to the Frick Art & Historical Center.)

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While the Rembrandt’s my favorite single work here, on a visit this past weekend I also found myself spending extra time in a gallery focusing on other works from the Collection, including, you know, just a couple a couple Gainsboroughs, Degas’ riveting “The Rehearsal,” a Whistler, a Hals, El Greco’s “Purification of the Temple” and Titian’s knockout “Portrait of a Man in a Red Cap.”

A sneaky favorite is Gerard ter Borch’s “Portrait of a Young Lady” (1655-70), for the spectacular rendering of her lustrous garment.

More info is here.

[Editor's note: Upon initial publication, there were open time slots for “Vermeer, Monet, Rembrandt.” However, as of Thursday morning, all remaining time slots for the exhibit had sold out.]

Updated: July 11, 2024 at 4:05 PM EDT
This story was revised to update ticket availability for the exhibit.
Bill is a long-time Pittsburgh-based journalist specializing in the arts and the environment. Previous to working at WESA, he spent 21 years at the weekly Pittsburgh City Paper, the last 14 as Arts & Entertainment editor. He is a graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism and in 30-plus years as a journalist has freelanced for publications including In Pittsburgh, The Nation, E: The Environmental Magazine, American Theatre, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Bill has earned numerous Golden Quill awards from the Press Club of Western Pennsylvania. He lives in the neighborhood of Manchester, and he once milked a goat. Email: