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The Three Trees is one of Rembrandt's finest etchings and was completed in 1643. Prints from the original etching can be found spread across some of the most famous art galleries and museums in the world, helping to keep his career very much in our thoughts.
There is a serene atmosphere within this artwork, thanks to the fairly simple detail used, as well as the large amount of space afforded to the sky section. We find a selection of three trees in the foreground, surrounded by shrubs and foliage, with a narrow river winding close by. There is a small bank which makes its way up from the river to the higher level, on which the trees are placed. They perfectly fill the centre of the vertical plain of the piece, whilst horizontally being more on the right hand side. This allows more space for the artist to display the open space of the landscape across the left hand side. The landscape behind the river is a narrow band of content, suggesting a flat level which is in line with the nature of this region of Northern Europe. It also reminds us as to how the parts of the Netherlands are, unfortunately, prone to flooding from time to time.
The tools used here was an etching with drypoint, which Rembrandt used many times. Burin has also been mentioned within the description of this artwork as being present, and that is a short steel rod commonly crafted for use in engraving. One cannot see it from the images here, but this is amongst the artist's largest and most complex work in these mediums, featuring different levels of etched lines in order to achieve an artistic level approaching perfection. There are also further details included which we may not be able to pick out here, particularly as this art form make use of a reduced palette. There are actually several people fishing within this scene, as well as an artist sketching. Some of the sky formation is aggressive and perhaps a little out of sync with the rest of the scene, leading to some suggestions that this part of the etching was left over from a previous artwork, though that has never been confirmed either way.
This method for a composition of just concentrating on a few trees as the main focal point is not as unusual as you might think, with a number of other famous paintings from other artists following a similar theme. For example, who can forget the stunning Four Trees from Egon Schiele, an Expressionist artist from the 20th century? Or instead there was also the series of poplar trees from Claude Monet that tried out different arrangements of these tall, slim plants. Rembrandt here chooses to concentrate on items found locally in order to ensure a natural, honest look to his depictions of life as he saw it at that time. In terms of the Netherlands, there were also some famous tree paintings from Piet Mondrian which started out in fairly traditional style, before becoming more and more abstract over a series of several years.