Blockbuster shows have their uses, I suppose. They boost much-needed museum revenues even if they make looking at art into a test of endurance and persistence. There’s more to be said for the blockbuster’s alternative: the small, focused exhibition that allows visitors to savor a comprehensible number of works, concentrate on their special characteristics, individually and as a group, and think about why they have been brought together. We emerge from the best of these intimate shows with our knowledge of art history enlarged, our preconceptions challenged, and our perceptions expanded. “Rembrandt and Degas: Two Young Artists,” a little gem of a show comprised of sixteen modest but potent works, is just such an exhibition, organized by the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, in association with the Sterling and Francine Clark Institute, Williamstown, MA, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York,...


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