‘Eyes Wide Open’ | VailDaily.com

‘Eyes Wide Open’

Laura A. Ball
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BEAVER CREEK – Upon first view of Rembrandt’s etchings, something about the faces struck Morton and Toby Mower. Perhaps it was the expressive stare or the intense emotion Rembrandt portrayed through his subjects. Whatever it was, the couple was inspired and began collecting them. “Rembrandt lived in the heart of Jewish anti-Semitism,” Toby said. “He found Jewish faces so interesting, very intense, very emotional and often used them as his subjects. We didn’t even know that when we bought our first etching.”That was five years ago, when curator Aaron Young suggested a few small Rembrandts to fill a narrow space between two windows in their downtown Baltimore apartment. By Wednesday morning, five new etchings had arrived at the Mower’s home in Beaver Creek, including “The Great Jewish Bride,” bringing the number in their possession to 65.As the Mowers’ collection expanded, so did their passion for discovering the history behind the artist’s work, his way of life and the world around him.

“For me, collecting these etchings has been a unique opportunity to demystify some of the techniques of art and gain insight into those times,” Morton said. “I’ve long been fascinated with modes of multiple reproductions – silkscreen, lithography, engraving. Etching was the photography of Rembrandt’s day. And he gives us a window into both the everyday life and cosmopolitan themes that captured his imagination.” Art for the massesThe Dutch artist emerged in the mid-16th century as one of the most celebrated painters of his time. His pieces reflected everything from theatrical biblical narratives to portraits and landscapes to scenes depicting everyday life in Amsterdam.

With the invention of etchings, developed for the purpose of mass producing original works of art, Rembrandt saw the new technique not only as a business opportunity but also as a way to extend his art to the masses. He produced a body of some 300 prints by means of drawing the image onto a wax-covered copper or zinc plate, which is then immersed in acid, creating tiny depressions of the image on the metal plate that will later be filled with ink and pressed to paper. Nearly 400 years later, the Mowers are determined to make accessible the works of Rembrandt with the same tenacity as the master etcher himself.The couple will lend their personal collection of Rembrandt etchings for public display Thursday, Saturday and Feb.12 at the May Gallery at The Vilar Center for the Arts in Beaver Creek. Proceeds from the exhibit will be donated to the Vilar Center Art’s Guild, whose members generate awareness of the arts within the community through Vilar Center projects and events.Collecting dust

Morton, a cardiologist who collaborated on the invention of the implantable defibrillator, a device for halting heart attacks, and Toby, a nurse, have always been lovers of art, but it wasn’t until they moved from a glass house to a condo in downtown Baltimore that they had walls to fill. They hired Young, president of Aaron Young Fine Arts and globally renowned curator, to help them cultivate a world-class art collection.”We have a mixed marriage,” Toby joked.She collects impressionists: Degas, Renoir, Cassatt. He collects pop art: Lichtenstein, Keith Harring, Andy Warhol. Collectively, their goal is to collect the quintessential example of each artist they admire. Though their Rembrandts represent only a small portion of their collection, it is their largest cumulation of one artist. “We collected so many Rembrandts that we put them under the bed in our condo in Baltimore. One day we said, ‘Why is this under the bed?’ Toby said. “Art is meant for sharing. Art is for everyone to enjoy. If the art just stays in our apartment, then is it really worth it? We’re really excited that the exhibit gives especially young people a chance to see art and understand it.”

Aside from public viewings, various groups of students in the Vail Valley will have a chance to view the exhibit and attend lectures during the week.”I have so much respect for Toby, and for Morton,” Young said. “Here’s a guy that looks at the world and is never satisfied with the way it is. He invents this thing that has saved so many millions of lives. He’s constantly poking and prodding the world. He says, ‘I really want to make sure the world at large can enjoy this or it will not be meaningful to me. How can I make sure that this art is viewed in a way that people would not normally view this art?'”The exhibit will be the first of its kind at the May Gallery. The Mowers, who get no greater satisfaction than seeing others enjoying art, hope it will set a precedent for others to show their collections at the Vilar.”We believe that in order to keep it, we have to give it away,” Toby said.Much the same way Rembrandt did.

Participate in The Longevity Project

The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.

If you goOn Thursday, the Rembrandt collection will be displayed with a lecture and reception for $35 that includes wine and light hors d’oeuvres. Space is limited and reservations are required. The etchings will also be open to the public for viewings on Saturday and Feb. 12 from 2-5 p.m. for a $10 fee, students are free. A docent will be on hand for public narratives at certain times each day.

For more information on the Rembrandt exhibit and to make reservations, call 845-TIXS (8497), 888-920-ARTS (2787) or visit http://www.vilarcenter.org. For information on student viewings and lectures, contact Britton Roetzel at 845-7588. Staff Writer Laura A. Ball can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14641, or laball@vaildaily.com.Vail, Colorado

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