From our continental correspondent – the arts in comics
Over the past few weeks, a number of fairly recent new publications have caught my eye that bridged the gap between visual (fine) arts and comics. Here’s one : Rembrandt by the Dutch creator Typex, published in Europe by the very fine Oog En Blik (who I see have been revamping their website recently).
This brick of a book, three years in the making, had creator Typex morph his style to fit the clair-obscure, brown tints and the fluent, vague and suggestive lines of his subject’s paintings. in a number of short tableaux, Typex tries to evoke key moments in the life and times of famed Dutch painter Rembrandt van Rijn, from his early days as an apprentice in Haarlem to the twilight of his days, alone with his much lauded (and often very honest) self-portraits.
Typex paints a portrait of a man who was to big for his contemporaries, who refused to market his work, but rather spent his time perfecting his craft. Rather than enumerating the creative history of Rembrandt’s most famous paintings, Typex focuses on his daily life, his friends and competitors and how he dealt with them.
It’s as if we read an account in pictures from that time itself, not bound by any constraints or convention of the medium but rather totally expressive. Whether all the anecdotes in the book are real, or whether Rembrandt really went about his business as he is portrayed here, is not that important, it is not the essence of this work or the man it depicts. This is Typex’s Rembrandt – his view on an artist who lives for his art, for whom life is an inconvenient obstacle in the perfection of his work, and does not care about social conformity or grace. Whether there’s a lot of Typex in this Rembrandt is a matter for psychologists.
(Typex interprets one of Rembrandt’s most famous works, The Night Watch)
Sometimes there are books that impose themselves on you, that you simply can’t ignore – you have to read them, you have to let yourself be overwhelmed by them. They’re called masterpieces, and Rembrandt is a prime example, and not translating it would be a crime. Which is why I am so delighted this is not going under my occasionally used ‘translation, please’ banner, where I highlight a remarkable piece of comics work in Europe that deserves to be translated and read more widely. Because others have already read this book and obviously share my opinion, having it translated for the pleasure of the English language readers too – the English language edition of Rembrandt is coming from the good people at SelfMadeHero this summer and is a book we’ve already highlighted in our monthly FPI’s Most Wanted, where our blog crew pick out some of the upcoming releases they want to read (it is available to pre-order on our webstore here). You are in for a wonderful reading experience.