Dulwich Picture Gallery

Dulwich Picture Gallery, the world’s oldest specially built art gallery, has marked the 350th anniversary of Rembrandt’s death with an extraordinary exhibition celebrating the role of light both in the creation and content of his work. In a bold and innovative move, the gallery invited award-winning cinematographer Peter Suschitzky to create lighting specially tailored to the exhibition, ‘Rembrandt’s Light’, using a new ERCO LED lighting system with wireless Bluetooth lighting controls by Casambi.

The gallery in southeast London, designed by Sir John Soane and opened in 1815, has upgraded part of its existing halogen lighting to a Casambi Bluetooth-operated system featuring ERCO’s Optec LED precision spotlights with 12W LED Modules. The new technology enabled Suschitzky to illuminate the seminal works by the Dutch master – 35 paintings, etchings, and drawings – in unique ways, bringing to life the exhibition’s theme of light and storytelling.

Star Wars and Rembrandt

Suschitzky is known for his work on films such as Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and Mars Attacks!, and as cinematographer (director of photography) on eleven of David Cronenberg’s films. ‘If Rembrandt were alive today, I believe he might have been a cinematographer,’ says Jennifer Scott, Sackler Director of Dulwich Picture Gallery and co-curator of Rembrandt’s Light. ‘As our exhibition explores, he used light to transport the viewer into the narrative.’ 

‘I have been inspired by the work of the greatest Old Masters throughout my life,’ said Suschitzky. ‘Rembrandt seems to me to have been striving to find a universal truth in the human condition and used light to create motion and emotion. This parallels cinematography, where sculpting light and directing the gaze of the viewer to the desired place in an image is essential for powerful storytelling.’

Manipulation of light

Arranged thematically, the exhibition traces how Rembrandt manipulated light: from evoking a meditative mood, to lighting people, to creating impact and drama. ‘We wanted to use the lighting to draw out the different themes of the rooms and the moods contained within Rembrandt’s paintings,’ says Helen Hillyard, Assistant Curator at the Gallery and co-curator of Rembrandt’s Light.

Casambi lighting controls allowed individual switching and dimming of the ERCO fittings, with control and programming through an iPad and iPhone. A range of interchangeable tertiary lenses – including narrow beams, floods, wide floods, oval floods, and framers – were used to precisely shape the light on each artwork. 

Exciting potential

‘What is really exciting right now is that if you need the Bluetooth system to do something, then essentially you can build it,’ says Alexander Moore, Head of Exhibitions at the Gallery. ‘We have a photography exhibition coming up which will require some of the lights to be on timers which are activated wirelessly by the visitor. We are also exploring interactive lighting designs which can actually be controlled by the visitor. The important thing is that we have now exposed ourselves to these new developments and can be a part of the conversation.’

Project
Dulwich Picture Gallery, ‘Rembrandt’s Light’

Site
London, Great Britain

Lighting
ERCO

Architecture
Sir John Soane (1753-1837)

Lighting design
Peter Suschitzky

Photography
Gavriil Papadiotis, London / Stefanie Gartmann, Cologne


Video
Rembrandt’s Light

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