I’ve always been impressed and inspired by the art of Rembrandt van Rijn. This is not just a wonderful painting by a Dutch master but the brief history of the subject of this particular painting, Jan Six, makes very interesting reading (courtesy Wikipedia). It goes to show that long after people have died certain legacies linger on for generations, generally driven by some unseen but very powerful desire to exert control (as can be discerned in the final paragraph of the article). The motives over the decades would no doubt have been perceived as just, but as with most instances of similar human contentions, the desires generally are not.

(The Wikipedia link is –

Another interesting account of the continuing power and appeal of Rembrandt can be found at The Guardians Jonathan Jones on Art blog.



The son of a well-to-do merchant family Six, Jan studied liberal arts and law in Leiden in 1634. He became the son-in-law of the mayor of Amsterdam, Nicolaes Tulp, in 1655, when he married Tulp’s daughter Margaretha. Thanks to his father-in-law, he became magistrate of family law and various other appointments on the city council, eventually becoming mayor of Amsterdam himself in 1691 at the ripe age of 73.

Six was good friends with the poet Joost van den Vondel and the painter Rembrandt van Rijn, during the forties. Six remained a devotee of the arts all his life and wrote plays himself, the most famous being Medea, published in 1648 (with an etching by Rembrandt), and Onschult (Innocence) in 1662. In the same year the Dutch translation of Baldassarre Castiglione’s Il libro del Cortegiano was dedicated to Six.

His collection of paintings, drawings, etchings, and other artifacts (including many from his wife’s family) were popular in his lifetime. This collection was eventually handed down generations later to the couple Lucretia Johanna van Winter (1785-1845) and Hendrik Six (1790-1847) whose extensive art collections were combined when they married in 1822 and are known collectively as the Six Collection, though 171 paintings were from the Van Winter family. Among the 76 Van Winter paintings collected by Lucretia Jans herself included a flower painting by Rachel Ruysch that she bought in 1820, the The Milkmaid (Vermeer) and the Serenade by Judith Leyster.

The 171 paintings that Lucretia Jans took with her on her marriage, were only half of her father’s extensive collection that itself had been known and put on display for a half century. The other half went to her sister Anna Louisa, who married Willem van Loon. A few of those paintings can still be seen in Museum Van Loon, but the rest of the other half of the Van Winter collection was sold by Van Loon heirs in 1877 to Gustave baron de Rothschild (son of James Mayer de Rothschild) in Paris.

The Six collection has been the subject of controversy in the Netherlands for decades, because though the house on the Amstel received subsidy from the Dutch government and was open to the public for visiting hours, the house was always also used as a home, and the number of visitors was limited. The dispute has been resolved and the top pieces are lent to the Rijksmuseum several months every other year.

Having visited China, Singapore and Hong Kong over time, seeing first hand some of the traditional and the more contemporary Chinese art was stimulating and inspiring. The artists behind the more contemporary art I was privileged to view were using their art to comment on some of the controversial political issues.

The artist in the following excerpt has chosen a different path ‘becoming tired’ of the system among other things. It was quite a pilgrimage it seems.


Excerpt from THE ART NEWSPAPER (Newsletter) Thursday 21 March 2013

Chinese photographer travels countryside with mobile portrait studio

By Chris Gill. – Published online: 20 March 2013

Shanghai-based artist Maleonn (aka Ma Liang) has spent the last year (from February to November 2012) traveling around 25 Chinese provinces, photographing some of the 200,000 people in a mobile photo studio and posting the images on his Weibo account (the Chinese version of Twitter). “I became tired of contemporary art, the system, dealing with critics and curators behind closed doors. I wanted to do something with ordinary people,” Maleonn says.

He put out the idea on his Weibo account, and was overwhelmed by the response. Eventually he established a set of guidelines, such as a minimum of eight people per city, who would provide him and his team with food, somewhere to stay and a space to work. Over ten months, in a battered truck and a minivan, he then visited 35 cities around China, taking 1,600 portraits of people in contemporary Chinese society dressed up in various kinds of fantasy dress.

Having completed the huge project in China, Maleonn mused he may next be taking the roadshow to the UK. “I have friends in Swansea,” he said.


Portraits by Maleonn from his mobile photo studio (Image courtesy THE ART NEWSPAPER)

Throughout the annuls of history there has been a succession of empires, kingdoms, republics, democracies, corporations etc, all of different political and religious persuasions that have engaged in violent exploits to further their own selfish cause/s. They have resorted to THE SWORD as the means of convincing any opposition that they mean business. There are of course many arguments to justify the use of the SWORD throughout history.  By the sword I mean any weapon that is used to subdue or control a population from raising any opposition to the entrenched power cartel. This can happen just as easily in a democracy (even politicians are still people subject to the magnetism of greed and one or more lies to get a result)

One critical feature of each passing regime and something that has continued to flourish through times of oppression has been ART and it’s perpetrator, the ARTIST. Though artistic expression may have been outlawed or severely controlled under strict political or religious regimes, the artist, controlled by a need to record the injustice, some historic event, beauty amidst the ugliness or just try to make a living, pressed on.

As history shows the transformation that has reshaped civilizations using the sword (or the gun in all it’s incarnations) the brush still remains the simple tool for an artist to express his or her creative drive, that impulse that caused the artist to pick up the brush in the first place. In league with the brush is the pen, the pencil and other simple tools at the disposal of the artist to make comment or express an opinion that may even be the visually representative expression of the majority.

So then, don’t just sit there, go buy a brush and some paint and make a few statements that the sword will never be able to say. Or go and buy an art book and discover what drove artists through history to do what they did, some with lasting historic effects. If you’re feeling revolutionary start a new art movement with your abilities and join the army of brush wielding commentators and make a bold statement and pick up your pen and explain why you’re doing this.

The world needs a new art movement to drive public opinion on issues that really matter. However,  before you take sides with the many opinions yelling at us today, make sure you get the balance, both sides of the coin otherwise you will be deceived. Remember, the artist is to express an informed view to help stimulate opinion from the bottom up. Don’t just accept the status quo as you may be unwittingly manipulated to accept a political compromise.


PS: Please visit my website and buy a painting or offer a comment. Both will be gratefully accepted.