The Montana Museum of Art and Culture has been showing its 120th anniversary exhibit, “Art of the State: Celebrating 120 Years of the MMAC Permanent Collection” since January.

But like all good things, this exhibit must come to an end, which it will on May 23. Luckily for us, the 120 exquisite pieces featured at the Meloy and Paxson galleries are part of the MMAC’s permanent collection, comprising 11,000 pieces that includes work by thousands of artists including Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, Salvador Dali, Edgar Paxson, and Rembrandt.

Rembrandt. Generally considered one of the greatest painters and print makers in European art, his name is much more likely to be the topic of study in an art history course and in the halls of the world’s grandest museums than in an article in the paper. But we Montanans are lucky enough to own one of our own as part of the Museum’s permanent collection, which belongs to all of us. There — impress your out-of-state relatives by saying you own a Rembrandt.

This particular piece, "The Persian," was purchased by the museum in 1999 from an estate, and was the inspiration for one of MMAC’s most popular traveling exhibits ever, the 2008 “Sordid and Sacred: The Beggars in Rembrandt’s Etchings from the John Villarino Collection.” Depicting a successful merchant dressed in a fringed tunic, boots, fur-trimmed cloak, and plumed fur beret, the portrait is typical of Rembrandt’s etched portraits.

Rembrandt was born in Leiden in 1606. In his early adulthood he studied and apprenticed under many of the most esteemed artists of the time in Amsterdam and Leiden, and in 1631, he returned to Amsterdam and established a business with art dealer Hendrick van Uylenburgh.

Their venture was enormously successful, and Rembrandt became a prominent portraitist. It was during this time that this etching was completed. In 1634, Rembrandt married van Uylenburgh’s niece, Saskia. Rembrandt successfully controlled the availability of his etchings, actively working to create market demand for them. His etchings are renowned for their sensitive rendering and range of darks and lights, and they reflect the artist’s experimentations in technique. Rembrandt freely changed and adapted the copper plates, varied acid exposure times, and inked the plates unevenly to create sweeping tonal variations and a strong sense of emotion and mood.

"The Persian" is part of the Montana Museum of Art and Culture’s permanent collection and can be viewed, along with 119 other pieces, at the Paxson and Meloy galleries on the University of Montana Campus in the PARTV Center. MMAC’s exhibit “Art of the State: Celebrating 120 Years of the MMAC Permanent Collection” runs through May 23.

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