Contrast (15 minutes of fame + Rembrandt)


mc hammer_rembrandt_value lesson_priohouse
Do you think MC Hammer and Rembrandt have similar mouths?

The “word a week” challenge this week is CONTRAST – and when M.C. Hammer’s name came up last Sunday, I thought of his “change” in celebrity status – and how his story is a great example of the 15 minutes of fame contrast.

A few years ago, M.C. Hammer was in a commercial that used his fame loss and financial problems in a humorous way.  In an insurance commercial, Hammer is dancing in front of his large mansion, with his upbeat music and some back up dancers too – but then abruptly – the music stops and it says “15 MINUTES LATER” – to show Hammer sitting on the ground next to a foreclosed sign as his art and cars get repossessed behind him.

Warhol’s “15 minutes of fame” quote has been interpreted to mean that popularity is fleeting and to suggest that celebrity status will be short-lived.  Now did you also know that Rembrandt, the famous painter and etcher, well during his lifetime he also experienced this contrast in popularity?  Rembrandt’s loss of favor came after he released the Night Watch, but critics insist that it was not this specific painting that caused his fall from appreciation… in fact, that idea is referred to as the Rembrandt myth (more here).

Instead, Rembrandt’s lack of appreciation – and money problems, and loss of commissioned works – may have been due to those around him not “understanding him” as well as natural changes in cultural taste and preference, where society was moving towards wanting brighter colors.

Now in the art room – when it comes to contrast – one of the first things we teach students about is VALUE, which refers to the amount of contrast between dark and light. Older students try to make between 5 and 10 different values – from whisper light to very dark.   And Rembrandt is often the top artist we reference while exploring VALUE because he used contrast so well.

Rembrandt was a master of contrast.

rembrandts night watch shows contrast_priorhosue

For example, in the Night Watch, Rembrandt used lighter values for the areas that he wanted the viewer to really see, and then he kept the other parts of the picture dark by using dramatic values.

When an artist uses deep contrast in a work it can create a piece that is “emotionally active.”

Even if the Night Watch was not fully appreciated at the time it was released, it is now one of the most famous paintings in the world, in part because of the genius way Rembrandt used light and dark (and be sure to check out chiaroscuro for more).


Oh yea, and the Night Watch is also NOT really a night time painting.  In the 1940s – the dark varnish that covered the painting was removed, which revealed a symbolic painting that showed mood and motion in a military depiction.  This also further confirmed that Rembrandt used maximum CONTRAST to create a mood and make statements, where the main light – cleverly – comes from the figure of a child.

In closing, fame WILL come and go – and as many celebs will point out = popularity is not always the joy it seems to be = and many times there is much contrast between what we think vs. what really is…..


For more on Contrast – Check out  Suellewellyn’s Word in your ear blog



27 thoughts on “Contrast (15 minutes of fame + Rembrandt)

  1. Now, I did wonder what happened to MC Hammer, What a shame lol considering how happy he looked in his music video for that one big hit 🙂 thank you for the story about rembrandt too 🙂


      1. lol not a chance would you “EVER” get me wearing those 😛 noOoOooOoOoo!

        Thank you for the link! taking a look now 😀


    1. Hi Tina – and right after this post – your Cambodia picture was the next thing I viewed – so the diversity continued (great photo by the way). 🙂


    2. hey Tina- I also think that Rembrandt and M.C. hammer had similar mouths (notice the puckered lips?) jk…..jk….


  2. What a great link ! Went through most of the links and videos! Fascinating story of the painting. And the cropping of it was a detail I have heard of in general but here it was quite devastating. Two people were cropped out and we know that from a copy of the painting, alas far inferior to cover the damage made. And then an absurd idea came to mind. We are talking about 15 minutes of fame, and by doing this we actually get to spend (collectively and as individuals) much more time on them.


    1. such a good point!!!! “and by doing this we actually get to spend (collectively and as individuals) much more time on them.”

      also, we were just watching an interview with a formerly famous singer from the 1980’s – and we could feel his angst – and in his promise to “get his band popular again” – well you could almost feel his desperation – his need to have the fame again….

      and well, we wondered what is harder for someone – to always lust for fame and “never” get it – or to have fame – for 15 minutes, 15 months or 15 years – to then have it TAKEN away – hmmmm guess it depends on the person, eh?


  3. What a fantastic take on this word challenge! I’d never have thought to use MC Hammer and Rembrandt in the same post but yours works perfectly. 🙂


    1. well I did not really plan this unlikely pair either – it was one of those things where you start writing and it just flows – it all started with “Hammer Time…” ha! 🙂


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