“Power of Art” Survey Select Influence

The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Tulip (1632) : Night Watch (1642)

“Simon Schama’s Power of Art” is an exceptional narrative documentary that features Bernini, Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Rothko, amongst other greats. For a curious understudy, like myself, Simon’s eloquent prose inspired me to offer additional insight into “Survey Select,” featuring 65 world-class artists this summer in San Diego, CA.

The Conspiracy of Claudius Civilis (1661-1662)

Simon Schama’s “Power of Art” introduces Rembrandt with the 1661-1662 oil painting, “The Conspiracy of Claudius Civilis.” One of the most important artists in Dutch history, Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (1606 – 1669), composed his last secular painting featuring the one-eyed Batavian chieftain, Claudius, who unified the Dutch to fight against the Roman empire.

Interior of Royal Palace of Amsterdam : Amsterdam’s Town Hall

“The Conspiracy of Claudius Civilis” is characteristic of Rembrandt’s free painting style which evolved late in his career. This style may have been influenced by his declaration of bankruptcy in 1656 and loosing everything, including his personal art collection, house and all of his possessions. Rembrandt’s last commission, although never paid, was one of his last attempts at artistic interpretation to redeem himself within good favor.

The Conspiracy of Claudius Civilis detail
and original sketch on the back of a death announcement

Unfortunately, good favor was never restored and the Amsterdam city council deemed Rembrandt’s masterpiece unsuitable. This painted rendition of Claudius and his rebellious cast were too scarred; too deformed; too much cackling from an unexceptional grouping of characters by higher society; and unfit to be hung in Amsterdam’s Town Hall. A crushing blow, no doubt, as Rembrandt cut his largest painting down to one-fifth of its original size, reframed for immediate resell which proved unsuccessful and then hidden away. The remaining fragment of “The Conspiracy of Claudius Civilis” was rediscovered with the painting “Simeon with the Christ Child in the Temple” after Rembrandt’s death on October 4, 1669.

The Flayed Ox (1655) : Simeon with the Christ Child in the Temple (1666)

Crisp clarity and contour escaped Rembrandt’s later works evidenced in “The Conspiracy of Claudius Civilis,” and as Simon Schama describes, “Eloquence doesn’t always have a pretty face.” A fitting commentary, as “Survey Select” will feature an array of interpretive painting styles that continue the spirit of Rembrandt’s great contribution to the movement of unrefined artistic interpretation.

David Michael Bowers : Marco Wagner : Micah Ganske

“Survey Select” features 65 visual storytellers from around the world who are not afraid to experiment with painterly techniques on wood, canvas, paper and digital bits. Celebrate this modern day salon and enjoy day storytellers who will introduce and exciting voice to the field of modern painting. Visit San Diego’s “Survey Select” curated by Mark Murphy at the Wonder Bread Factory July 15 – September 5, 2010. For more information on BBC Video’s “Simon Schama’s Power of Art” please click here. For a listing of ‘Survey Select” events, artists, and travel arrangements.

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