The Phantom of the Self-Portrait. Rembrandt 350

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The Phantom of the Self-Portrait. Rembrandt 350

Cabinet exhibition at the Hungarian National Gallery (Building D, 1st floor) - 7 June 2019 - 22 September

The Hungarian National Gallery’s new dossier exhibition organised on the occasion of the 350th anniversary of Rembrandt’s death brings some classic Rembrandt paraphrases by Hungarian neo-avant-garde artists to the public, including László Lakner’s painting titled Rembrandt Studies (1966), Ákos Birkás’s conceptual photographic work Rembrandt, the Phantom of the Self-Portrait (1977) and Péter Forgács’s video installation In/between: Rembrandt Morphs (2006).

The principal works of the Collection of International Art after 1800 have been exhibited in the Hungarian National Gallery since December 2018. A special feature of the show can be found in the “transitory zone” marked in grey in the middle of the row of halls: a cabinet room functioning as a project hall for dossier exhibitions. This can also be seen as an extension of the chamber exhibition series, launched in 2009 by the Department of International Art after 1800. The new exhibition to commemorate the 350th anniversary of Rembrandt’s death will be the second chamber exhibition mounted at this venue.

Rembrandt occupies a distinctive place even among the most distinguished masters of art history. His name is used as a household name for painting, what is more, it is synonymous with art in general. In most cases, remembering his œuvre and works go far beyond being a gesture of paying tribute to the great predecessor, as do their analysis, interpretation, and paraphrasing. Revisiting Rembrandt is a form of meditation about painting, visuality and art, while also manifest in it is the struggle with the commonplaces and clichés that have been attached to the name Rembrandt.


Ákos Birkás: Rembrandt, Phantom of Self-Portrait, 1977, 21×29.7 cm. Courtesy of Knoll Galerie Budapest & Wien, heirs of Ákos Birkás and Ákos Birkás Art Foundation


László Lakner: Head, 1967, Etchings on paper, 780 × 600 mm. Deposit of Robert Tosi

The works displayed at the exhibition to run through 22 September contextualise and subtly reinterpret one another and can even be assembled together into a train of thought on what the self-portrait constitutes. The three artists evoke Rembrandt as the great classic of self-portraiture; they present the creation of the self-portrait and the shaping of the face as a temporal process, while exploring the question of time passing as well as how artists and art change over time and how they can preserve their self-identity. Although each using a different medium, the artists address the same issue – the great traditions of art history living on – by looking back on the past from the vantage point of the present. Besides the six contemporary works – three paintings by Lakner, two pieces by Birkás and one video installation by Forgács – visitors will also be able to see Rembrandt’s print Self-portrait in a Cap and Scarf with the Face Dark (1633) from the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts.


Similarly to the 2006 exhibition in the Museum of Fine Arts titled Re:mbrandt. Contemporary Hungarian Artists Respond – where Péter Forgács’s Rembrandt Morphs debuted – it is through contemporary artistic reflections and those from the recent past that the present show seeks to “re-read” Rembrandt, who is also represented in the exhibition space by a self-portrait print. Most of the displayed works come from the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts and the Hungarian National Gallery.


The curator of the exhibition is Dávid Fehér.

The Phantom of the Self-Portrait. Rembrandt 350

7 June 2019 - 22 September

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