Friday 23 August 2019

Pick of the week: Looking for Rembrandt

Tuesday, BBC4, 9pm, Rise and fall

Rory McIlroy. Photo: Getty
Paul Whitington

Paul Whitington

Throughout his life, Rembrandt van Rijn painted, sketched and etched self-portraits, over 100 of them all told, which form a moving and formidable record of his rise and fall. That rise was steep: a miller's son, Rembrandt became the darling of Amsterdam's prosperous burgher class during the mid-17th century, the most reputed portraitist of his time, an avid collector, a wealthy, amorous man. He lived it up but spent money wildly, and in the early 1660s was declared bankrupt.

In self-portraits painted in his pomp, he looks proud, displays his wealth like a latter-day Kardashian. But the later portraits tell a different story: in one, which hangs in New York's Frick Museum, his haunted eyes and threadbare clothes reveal a man mired in self-doubt. He was a master, a genius, also something of an enigma, and on the 350th anniversary of his death this three-part documentary explores the personal ups and downs that informed his greatest works.

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Actor Toby Jones assumes the voice of Rembrandt, and in this first episode we hear how the painter arrived "like a thunderclap" in Amsterdam in the winter of 1831, and was soon courted by the city's wealthy elite, who vied and paid handsomely for his services. But before too long, he would manage to fall foul of some very influential patrons. We also explore the highs and lows of the great man's personal life, as his opulent lifestyle with his wife, Saskia was shattered by multiple tragedies, including the deaths of two children.

How did this explosive talent, who in his youth was the feted darling of Dutch society, end his life in a rented grave? How did an artist made rich by patronage end up declaring bankruptcy, and why did his fall from grace coincide with his creative high point?

After his bankruptcy, Rembrandt was forced to live in reduced circumstances in his declining years, and was buried in a pauper's cemetery. Twenty years later his remains were removed and destroyed, common practice for the poor at that time.


Sports picks


Today, BBC1, 5.10pm

Gary Lineker, Alan Shearer and guests are live at Wembley Stadium for the FA Cup semi-final between Manchester City and Brighton and Hove Albion. Most neutrals will be up for Brighton of course, particularly those from the red side of Manchester, and while the odds are stacked against them it's a cup tie, so you never know. Wolves and Watford meet in the second semi-final tomorrow.

Rugbaí Beo

Tonight, TG4, 7.30pm

Quietly, and without fuss, Leo Cullen's Leinster have been going about the business of defending their European and Pro 14 titles. They squeezed past Ulster last week to earn themselves a Champions Cup home semi-final, and meanwhile, they're dominating the Pro 14 Conference B table, and will probably prove too much for Benetton at the RDS. Maire Treasa Ni Dhubhghaill presents.

Live UEFA Champions League

Tuesday, RTÉ 2, 7pm

As the season nears its climax, Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool are feeling the pressure as they juggle domestic and European campaigns. They're neck and neck with Manchester City at the top of the Premier League, and this week begin their two-leg Champions League quarter-final against Porto at Anfield. Liam Brady and Darragh Maloney set the scene, George Hamilton and Jim Beglin commentate.

Live Masters golf

Thursday, Sky Sports Golf, 8pm

It's day one of the 2019 Masters, and golf's superstars will be teeing off at the Augusta National. Patrick Reed is the defending champion after his superb win last year, but many eyes will be on Rory McIlroy (below) and the great Tiger Woods, both of whom have recently run into some vintage form.

Rory McIlroy. Photo: Getty


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