There’s an interesting article over at the New York Review of Books by Robert Hughes about the Dutch master Rembrandt van Rijn. Hughes christens Rembrandt the first real “God of Realism” after Caravaggio. Not because his work is realistic like a photograph, but real like everyday life.
Hughes mentions a few moments when Rembrandt is too real in the paragraph below..
The God of Realism
“It may well be that giving vent to it was Rembrandt’s compensation for the anal obsession with neatness and cleanness that characterized Dutch domestic life. He did etchings of a man peeing and a woman defecating. A dog, tensely extruding a large turd from its backside, appears in the foreground. And his large painting of the infant Ganymede snatched up into the sky by Zeus in the form of an eagle shows the child uncontrollably pissing in terror, which must be about the most anti-classical rendering of a scene from the classics ever given by a major artist.. though it is certainly what you would expect a baby boy to do under the circumstances.”
“Rembrandt’s own lack of interest in refinement and smoothness in the Italian manner—his rejection, in short, of the abstract—would cost him the loyalty of some connoisseurs, such as the “German Vasari” Joachim von Sandrart, who complained that for all his talent Rembrandt hadn’t grasped “our rules of art, such as anatomy and the proportions of the human body,” partly because he “always associated with the lower orders, whereby he was hampered in his work.”