Rembrandt’s drawing of a child learning to walk
David Hockney, on why it’s his favorite drawing:
There’s a drawing by Rembrandt, I think it’s the greatest drawing ever done. It’s in the British Museum and it’s of a family teaching a child to walk, so it’s a universal thing, everybody has experienced this or seen it happen. Everybody. I used to print out Rembrandt drawings big and give them to people and say: “If you find a better drawing send it to me.”
“I used to say to people, ‘I have a reproduction of the best drawing ever made in my pocket’ and I would pull it out and I would convince them, within a minute, that it was the best. It is a Rembrant from the British Museum of a little family teaching a little girl to walk. Everybody at home has a picture like that. The Rembrant, for me, tells me about who you are. I’m looking at the marks and I can feel his arm. That wouldn’t be possible with a photograph – it would be a performance. Rembrant was not intervening in any way, meaning it is the greatest work of art. You don’t see it at first. It is a virtuoso drawing but it doesn’t shout out.”
When I look at these marks, I know a Chinese master of the seventeenth century would recognise instantly that this drawing was the work of a master. Very few people could get near this… The tenderness this drawing shows is not possible with photography.