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Joy of Museums

Museums, Art Galleries and Historical Sites

“The Raising of Lazarus” by Rembrandt and Vincent van Gogh

"The Raising of Lazarus" by Rembrandt and Vincent van Gogh

“The Raising of Lazarus” by Rembrandt

“The Raising of Lazarus” by Rembrandt, depicts the scene from the New Testament Bible. For the creation of this composition, Rembrandt experimented with drawings and etchings on this subject with differing configurations. This scene is in a tomb with Christ standing in the cave with his hand raised to perform the miracle. Rembrandt represents Lazarus’s rising as caused by Christ’s forceful gesture and his faith. Lazarus’ sisters Mary and Martha look on in amazement, as do the other spectators.

The astounded witnesses’ expressions record successive states of awareness and awe. The dramatic darkness of the cave is in contrast to the subtle colours in the costumes. The glinting highlights of the quiver and scabbard hanging on the wall were Lazarus’ weapons, as according to mediaeval legend, Lazarus was a soldier.

"The Raising of Lazarus" by Rembrandt and Vincent van Gogh

“The Raising of Lazarus” etching by Rembrandt – 1642 from the Rijksmuseum Museum

Rembrandt painted and drew many stories and parables of the Bible as recognisable and familiar images. The Dutch Reformed Calvinism at Rembrandt’s time forbade religious art in churches. Thus there were limited public commissions for paintings of biblical subjects. Fortunately, private patronage for them thrived, and Rembrandt tapped into this demand.

The Raising of Lazarus after Rembrandt by Vincent van Gogh

Rembrandt’s paintings have influenced many successive painters, including Van Gogh who also painted a picture called “The Raising of Lazarus (after Rembrandt)”, based on a print of the Rembrandt image.  Van Gogh depiction left out the central figure of Christ with his arm raised he focused on the human suffering and identified with Lazarus in the tomb. Lazarus in the Van Gogh painting below, has a red beard, just like Van Gogh.

Prints from other masters inspired Van Gogh during his stay at the hospital in Saint-Rémy, and he made his version of the Raising of Lazarus from an etching by Rembrandt. With his ginger beard, Lazarus bears some resemblance to Van Gogh himself. The painter may have seen a parallel between Lazarus’ return from the dead and his struggle from mental illness towards recovery.

"The Raising of Lazarus" by Rembrandt and Vincent van Gogh

The Raising of Lazarus after Rembrandt by Vincent van Gogh (1890)

This painting is based on an etching by Rembrandt that Van Gogh’s brother Theo had sent him. Van Gogh seems to be focused on the theme of human suffering. He was identifying with Lazarus in the tomb. While he also imagined the reaction of two acquaintances from Arles, Mrs Roulin, in the green dress, and Mrs Ginoux, in a dress with colourful stripes. Christ is depicted symbolically through the sun to evoke the healing powers of faith. Spiritual meaning and emotional comfort were expressed through symbolism and colour.

Copies of previous masters by Vincent van Gogh form a distinguished group of paintings created by Vincent van Gogh between 1887 and early 1890. While at Saint-Paul asylum, where Van Gogh admitted himself, he explored famous works from renowned artists. Van Gogh created over 30 artworks that were copies inspired by some of his favourite artists. However, rather than replicate, Van Gogh sought to translate the subjects and composition through his unique perspective of colour and technique.

Rembrandt

Rembrandt van Rijn was an innovative and prolific master draughtsman, painter, and printmaker. He is generally considered one of the greatest visual artists in the history of art and the most important in Dutch art history. Rembrandt’s works depict a range of styles and subjects, from portraits and self-portraits to landscapes, genre scenes, allegorical and historical scenes, biblical and mythological themes as well as animal studies. Rembrandt van Rijn was an innovative and prolific master draughtsman, painter, and printmaker. He is generally considered one of the greatest visual artists in the history of art and the most important in Dutch art history. Rembrandt’s works depict a range of styles and subjects, from portraits and self-portraits to landscapes, genre scenes, allegorical and historical scenes, biblical and mythological themes as well as animal studies.

Vincent van Gogh

Vincent Willem van Gogh (1853 – 1890) is among the most famous and influential figures in the history of Western art. Van Gogh was unsuccessful during his lifetime and was considered a madman and a failure. He created about 2,100 artworks, including around 860 oil paintings, most of them in the last two years of his life. They were characterised by bold colours and dramatic, impulsive and expressive brushwork that contributed to the foundations of modern art.

The Raising of Lazarus (after Rembrandt) by Vincent van Gogh

  • Title:                      The Raising of Lazarus (after Rembrandt)
  • Artist:                    Vincent van Gogh
  • Date:                      1890
  • Location created:   Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, France
  • Medium:                oil on paper
  • Dimensions:           50 cm x 65.5 cm
  • Museums:               Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

Explore Rembrandt

Explore the Los Angeles County Museum of Art

The Raising of Lazarus

  • Title:                         The Raising of Lazarus
  • Artist:                       Rembrandt
  • Year:                         1630-1632
  • Medium:                  Oil on oak panel
  • Dimensions            H: 96.4 cm (38 in). W: 81.3 cm (32 in).
  • Museum:                 Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Rembrandt

Reflections

  • Rembrandt and Van Gogh on the meaning of resurrection?
  • How did the two artists express spiritual meaning through symbolism and colour?
  • Lazarus in the Van Gogh painting, has a red beard, just like Vincent?

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“A painting is finished when the artist says it is finished.”
– Rembrandt

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Photo Credit: 1) Rembrandt [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons 2) By Vincent van Gogh [Public domain or CC0], via Wikimedia Commons 3) Rembrandt [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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