Monday, October 7, 2013

141 Rembrandt's secrets

In the winter of 1977 I walked into the Orange County Museum and within a few paces came face to face with Rembrandt's magnum opus The Raising of Lazarus. The texture and luminosity of the painting blew me away. All I could do was stand before it in total wonder. Later I realized I had a book with a reproduction of the painting but I didn't recognize it. It apparently is very difficult to reproduce. The version here captures but a faint shadow of the power of the original.

I received a commission to do a figurative work without any provisions except that it illustrate in some way the mission of Christ. I accepted this unexpected challenge without full confidence I could do the subject justice. I have since been studying the paintings of Rembrandt and feel I can now move forward with some assurance that I can fulfill the commission in an artistic and professional manner. I have no illusions about approximating Rembrandt's mastery. But I have made certain deductions regarding his work that will help me in my attempt which I will share in upcoming blog entries.

The book Rembrandt: the Painter at Work gave multiple insights into Rembrandt's technique although I think the author missed the most critical aspect regarding Rembrandt's methods. I will give a hint about the missing ingredient: chalk (no surprise for those who follow this blog). How Rembrandt mixed chalk with linseed oil is of critical importance. The accuracy of my deductions will be made apparent as the commission unfolds. Stay tuned.

Brad Teare October 2013

Image courtesy of Google Images


  1. A while back, you posted a YouTube video in which you explored the use of burnt plate oil in a painting. You're probably already familiar with this, but here is a link to R's probable use of burnt plate oil to achieve his brushwork effects --


    1. Dave, This is absolutely fascinating! I hadn't surmised the use of burnt plate oil although I knew that R achieved a very gummy consistency. I was guessing he left the oil/chalk mixture on his palette for a few days to let it set up. Many thanks for this valuable link!

  2. Biblical scenes are fun to paint because there is the challenge to come up with a design different from the Masters. A few years back, I painted the scene of the Pentecost for a client. I learned a lot and I really enjoyed the experience. I wish though I had known then about using chalk for texture.

    This is a very interesting project Brad, and I can't wait to read about it.

    1. Yes, it is hard to be original with this subject. I'd like to keep the composition simple and avoid the large cast of characters some old master's used. I plan to spend the whole week just doing thumbnails, which will be a kind of visual brainstorming. I'll post the results.


Thanks for your comments!


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