Although I am familiar with Rembrandt's work, through photographs and black and white reproductions, I invariably experience a shock from the colour standpoint whenever I come in touch with one of his pictures. I was especially struck with that masterpiece of his at the Hermitage, called the Slav Prince, which, by the way, I am convinced is a portrait of himself; any one who has had the idea suggested cannot doubt it for a moment; it is Rembrandt's own face without question. The reproductions I have seen of this picture, and, in fact, of all Rembrandt's works, are so poor and so unsatisfactory that I was determined, after my visit to St. Petersburg, to devise a means by which facsimile reproductions in colour of Rembrandt's pictures could be set before the public. The black and white reproductions and the photographs I put on one side at once, because of the impossibility of suggesting colour thereby.

Rembrandt has been reproduced in photograph and photogravure, and by every mechanical process imaginable, but all such reproductions are not only disappointing, but wrong. The light and shade have never been given their true value, and as for colour, it has scarcely been attempted.

After many years of careful thought and consideration as to the best, or the only possible, manner of giving to those who love the master a work which should really be a genuine reproduction of his pictures, I have adapted and developed the modern process of colour printing, so as to bring it into sympathy with the subject. For the first time these masterpieces, with all the rich, deep colouring, can be in the possession of every one—in the possession of the connoisseur, who knows and loves the originals but can scarcely ever see them, and in that of the novice, who hardly knows the emotions familiar to those who have made a study of the great masters, but is desirous of learning.

At the Hermitage in St. Petersburg I was specially privileged—I was allowed to study these priceless works with the glass off and in moments of bright sunlight—to see those sweeps of rich colour, so full, so clear, so transparent, and broken in places, allowing the undertones to show through.

I myself have made copies of a hundred Rembrandts in order to understand more completely his method of work. And in copying these pictures certain qualities have been revealed to me which no one could possibly have learnt except by this means. Rembrandt worked more or less in two stages: first, by a carefully-painted monochrome, handled in such a way as to give texture as well as drawing, and in which the masses of light and shade are defined in a masterly manner; second, by putting on the rich, golden colour—mostly in the form of glazes, but with a full brush. This method of handling glazes over monochrome has given a gem-like quality to Rembrandt's work, so much so that you might cut out any square inch from any portion of his pictures and wear it as a jewel. And in all his paintings there is the same decorative quality that I have before alluded to: any picture by Rembrandt arrests you as a decorative patch—the grouping and design, and, above all, the balance of light and shade, are perfect.


July 1905.