Sunday, 28 May 2017

Mr Klein | Joseph Losey, 1976

Adriaen van Ostade's The Analysis (1666) haunts the home of Robert Klein, an art dealer in occupied Paris who buys paintings such as this for a fraction of their worth from desperate Jewish families fleeing the war, who's unwittingly cast into the labyrinthine life-swap scheme of his mysterious Jewish namesake and doppelgänger.

A student of Frans Hals and a contemporary of Rembrandt, van Ostade, who'd changed his name from Adriaen Jansz Hendricz, was a celebrated painter of the Dutch Golden Age, whose younger brother, Isaac, later became his student, emulating his style and taking his new surname. The two van Ostade's, however, had vastly different careers, and Isaac, forever stuck in the shadow of his brother, never found the same success as an artist. He died in 1649 at the age of 28, just as he was beginning to step out on his own.

The portrait owned by Klein, The Analysis, painted by Adriaen several years after the death of his brother, is not only a souvenir of the cruel business he profits from, but one which suggests that the best way to survive in this wintry, war-torn world is be one step ahead of it, to cast your own shadow, to develop your own style, to make your own terms — for Klein, however, it's too late. Like Isaac, he's already lost, doomed to chase the shadow of his own name as the world leaves him behind.