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Rembrandt masterpiece goes live

Since acquiring Rembrandt’s Portrait of a Man with Arms Akimbo late last year, the Agnes Etherington Art Centre could only share digital images of the Dutch masterpiece as staff prepared for the installation.

[Jan Allen and Jacquelyn Coutre introduce the new Rembrandt]
Jan Allen (left), Director, Agnes Etherington Art Centre, and Jacquelyn N. Coutré, Bader Curator and Researcher of European Art at the Agnes, introduce Rembrandt's Portrait of a Man with Arms Akimbo during a special media preview on April 28. (Photo by Bernard Clark)

Now the time has come to unveil the painting, and Jacquelyn N. Coutré, Bader Curator and Researcher of European Art at the Agnes, couldn’t be more excited.

“As reproductions don’t fully capture the richness of this portrait, it is exhilarating to finally share it with the public,” Dr. Coutré says. “The life-size format, authoritative pose and powerful gaze all contribute to the subject’s impressive presence, and the nuances of colour are splendid.”

Alfred and Isabel Bader gave Portrait of a Man with Arms Akimbo to the Agnes in November 2015. The late-career painting by Rembrandt, signed and dated 1658, will be presented alongside two smaller studies by the Dutch master that the Baders also previously donated to the art gallery. In addition to the Rembrandt paintings, The Bader Collection at the Agnes includes more than 200 works focused on Dutch and Flemish paintings of the Baroque period.

Dr. Coutré says a close inspection of the masterpiece reveals the artist’s signature ruwe, or rough, style that art historians identify as a trademark of Rembrandt’s brilliant late work.

“When you get up close to the painting in person, you can see that the brushstrokes have such materiality to them, and you can actually trace the movement of the artist's hand as he dragged the thick paint across the canvas with his brush,” she says. “In the humanity and the splendour of this painting, The Bader Collection truly reaches new heights.”

[Portrait of a Man with Arms Akimbo]
Rembrandt van Rijn, Portrait of a Man with Arms Akimbo, 1658, oil on canvas, 107.4 x 87.0 cm, Gift of Alfred and Isabel Bader, 2015 (58-008) (Photo by Bernard Clark)

A mysterious masterpiece

While the subject of the painting is unknown, art historians have speculated he could be a sailor, military figure, merchant or artist.

The earliest documented owner of the painting, Daniel Daulby, was a renowned collector of Old Masters, and authored the first catalogue of Rembrandt etchings in English. Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, the painting was primarily held in private collections including those of George Huntington Hartford II, John Seward Johnson and Barbara Piasecka Johnson.

By giving the masterpiece to the art gallery at Queen’s, the Baders have ensured that scholars and the public will have access to the portrait for their research and enjoyment.

“This first presentation in Kingston of Rembrandt’s Portrait of a Man with Arms Akimbo — an artistic treasure long out of public view — marks a turning point for the gallery, and signals a wider burgeoning of the arts at Queen’s University,” says Jan Allen, Director, Agnes Etherington Art Centre.

This inspiring new installation at the Agnes is joined by four new exhibitions of works showcasing Kingston artists and drawing upon contributions by members of the African and diasporic communities at Queen’s as well as in Kingston and the surrounding region. The general public's first chance to see the painting will come at the season launch event on Friday, April 29 from 6:30-8 pm. The Agnes also recently announced a new policy of free admission to the gallery.

Visit the Agnes to learn more about its exhibitions, collections and programs.

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“Our generous benefactors Alfred and Isabel Bader have shared their collection with us,” Ms. Allen says. “In turn, we want to ensure The Bader Collection and our entire holdings are accessible for all.”

Alfred Bader (Sc’45, Arts’46, MSc’47, LLD’86) and Isabel Bader (LLD’07) are among Queen’s most generous benefactors, supporting the university for seven decades. They have given back to Queen’s in countless ways: transforming the campus, enriching the student experience, supporting scholarship, and helping to enhance the university’s reputation as a top-tier educational institution.

Inspiring students through art

The Bader Collection at the Agnes is a resource for all Queen’s students and faculty members.