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Julius Langbehn, Rembrandt as Educator (1890)

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Originality is not the goal but the precondition of all artistry. It is given in Rembrandt as an exemplar; the German must pass through it if he wishes to become something spiritually. This is the educational meaning of this great artist. As one speaks of Caesarism, one could also speak of Rembrandtism, only that the latter is exactly the opposite of the former: for the former centralizes a people externally, the latter individualizes it internally. The new must pick up from the old, but only at the point where it is freest, and German culture to date is freest in Rembrandt. Today, many things are examined under the microscope; it would be good to look at some things under the macroscope, for a change; audiatur et altera pars [let the other part be heard also]. In that spirit, I have made the attempt here to measure, not a man against time, but time – the present – against one man. As a rule, it has little effect on modern non-persons if one says to them: become human beings. Perhaps it will have a greater effect if one points them toward a specific person and calls out to them: become human beings like Rembrandt. Needless to say, that refers not to the level of his talent, but to its quality. This kind of humanness does not need to be grasped by reason, does not need to be drawn from books; it can be seen with the eyes and felt with the heart; it is no departure into ideal and unknown strange lands; it is a return to the ancestral home.

Source: Julius Langbehn, Rembrandt als Erzieher [Rembrandt as Educator](1890). 37th edition. Leipzig: C. L. Hirschfeld, 1891, pp. 45-58.

Translation: Thomas Dunlap

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