About 8 years ago I was in London for 4 days. I saw the highlights, including the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, and the Globe theater.  But where I spent most of time was in the Rembrandt wing of the National Gallery.

I mean for me, the only thing better would’ve have been an endless line of credit at Harrods (glad that’s one debt I don’t have in my name). But wow, what an eye candy orgy. From Titian to Leonardo da Vinci’s cartoon of the Virgin on the Rocks, it was all amazing. I could have moved in and lived among the paintings.  Did I mention the Van Goghs, the Manets, Monets, Raphael, Botticelli, all of my favorite men in one place, simply a mind orgasm if you will.

But where I sat and simply stared for hours was the Rembrandt wing.  For me, he is the master of human emotions and light. His paintings are powerful, to me more powerful than Caravaggio’s human expressions. Rembrandt in my mind cannot be matched.

But mostly it’s his use of light. He is known for painting from one light source and/or reflectors. The result is the viewer is pulled into the light. And this is why I love Rembrandt, he reminds us that a single light is enough to radiate a room, a face and a human soul.

Compare this painting http://www.rijksmuseum.nl/images/aria/sk/z/sk-a-4717.z painted in 1626 to this one painted in 1630 http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/rembrandt-anna-and-the-blind-tobit. The subject matter is the same, and the first is more expressive, but for me not as powerful as the second.  The second moves me deeply, I can feel the despair Tobias must feel. But I feel it, because of the light’s power.

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote “Light is the first of painters. There is no object so foul that intense light will not make it beautiful”.  Tobias is despaired by his blindness, but continues to pray as Anna works. Two signs of hope, both are illuminated. We cannot  see what has been taken away by their poverty i.e., how sparse the rooms is, but rather we feel what remains, faith, piety, steadfastness, and hope.

That’s why we say, “the light at the end of the tunnel” or “go into the light”, because with it, the light brings new beginnings. There are always new beginnings if we allow ourselves to walk through the darkness.

This is what I’ve learnt from Rembrandt.

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