By Julie Lawrence Special to Published Oct 10, 2005 at 5:15 AM

{image1} "God made the world, but the Dutch made Holland." Marian Bisanz-Prakken, curator from the Albertina in Vienna shares this very relevant quote inspired by Dutch patriotism as she talks about the Milwaukee Art Museum's current exhibition of Netherlandish art, "Rembrandt and His Time: Masterworks from the Albertina, Vienna."

Inspired by Dutch motivation to transform water, via dykes and dams, into usable land on which they then built successful cities, several 17th-century Netherlandish artists drew and painted landscapes depicting the newly burgeoning metropolises. It was a time of exciting change, and most importantly, a time of homeland pride for the Dutch.

From this time comes a century's worth of inspired art, including the influential Rembrandt Harmensz. Van Rijn (1606-'69).

Although the Milwaukee Art Museum's Rembrandt exhibit, which opened Saturday and runs through Jan. 8, is presented in conjunction with the 400th anniversary of the birth of the artist in 2006, it is also very much an exhibition of exciting firsts.

Included in the 115 works from the most significant Netherlandish artists are 26 of Rembrandt's drawings and prints -- the largest number of Rembrandt works ever lent by the Albertina.

"Amazingly, as beautiful as they are, many of these pieces have never been exhibited before, not even at the Albertina," adds Laurie Winters, MAM's curator of Earlier European Art .

{image2} Inside the second gallery of the exhibition -- for which Milwaukee is the only venue -- is another important first. Rembrandt's "Landscape with the Good Samaritan" -- one of only eight landscapes painted by the artist -- has never before traveled to North America. Lent by the Czartoryski Museum in Poland, this painting belongs to the pivotal midpoint of the artist's career and provides an excellent point of comparison for his, and his colleagues', numerous Dutch landscape drawings.

Displayed chronologically, the exhibit opens with an introduction of the artist as one of -- if not the most -- influential draftsman of the 17th century. Accompanying his drawings are works of his influences, contemporaries, students and followers, including Jan Lievens, Lambert Doomer, Philips Konick, Nicolaes Maes, Salomon de Bray, Govaert Flinck and Adriaen van Ostade.

Rembrandt is universally accepted as one the greatest artists of all time, and MAM's collection clearly demonstrates his exceptional facility as a draftsman with different media. The works on display may only be a sampling of what he produced in his lifetime, but that in no way implies the exhibit to be a quick tour. As swift an artist as he was sensitive, his sketches are filled with delicate detail, and some are no bigger than a postcard (a very rare and very expensive postcard). So how do you soak in every fragile feature? Grab one of the magnifying glasses the museum has provided; you'll need it.

Julie Lawrence Special to staff writer Julie Lawrence grew up in Wauwatosa and has lived her whole life in the Milwaukee area.

As any “word nerd” can attest, you never know when inspiration will strike, so from a very early age Julie has rarely been seen sans pen and little notebook. At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee it seemed only natural that she major in journalism. When offered her an avenue to combine her writing and the city she knows and loves in late 2004, she knew it was meant to be. Around the office, she answers to a plethora of nicknames, including “Lar,” (short for “Larry,” which is short for “Lawrence”) as well as the mysteriously-sourced “Bill Murray.”