In the 18th century Britain was obsessed with Rembrandt. In London, the central hive of the burgeoning European art market, Rembrandts were traded with the kind of enthusiasm the Netherlands once reserved for tulips. The artist’s works changed hands for large sums, and collectors outdid each other in skulduggery and underhandedness to get their hands on the works they wanted – or in stopping others getting their hands on them. 
Copies and “works after” abounded, as did forgeries. Satirists such as Hogarth found rich pickings. The results, if not the mania, were long-lasting, for if some grew tired of the ubiquity of Rembrandt, others still admired and copied his way with light and shade, his way with chiaroscuro, for he was both a painter’s painter and a collector’s painter. Rembrandts now are secreted in country houses, private vaults and many public galleries and museums. Indeed there is only one other country where more Rembrandts are held – his homeland, the Netherlands.
It was this British “craze” that interested Tico Seifert, senior curator of northern European paintings at the National Galleries of Scotland. Once you start looking, he says – in private collections, in public museums, in archives, for these places are a curator’s stamping ground – you start to notice that it is not just an unsubstantiated feeling that there are a lot of Rembrandts in Britain. It is backed up by the historical record. 
“It’s quite staggering how much there is. Historically there has been even more,” he says, speaking to me by phone from a spot in the late afternoon sunshine outside the Royal Scottish Academy building, having just hung the last picture and adjusted the last lights of this summer’s headline National Galleries exhibition, an installation which has taken a number of weeks. “Of all Rembrandt’s masterpieces, there is hardly anything that has not at some point in its life been in Britain.”
Many of these UK-based works – from the superb Belshazzar’s Feast (National Gallery) to Girl at a Window (Dulwich Picture Gallery) – will be at the heart of Rembrandt: Britain’s Discovery of the Master, this summer, the first exhibition to look at the history of Rembrandt’s allure in Britain over nearly four centuries and to put it in the context of those artists, right up to the present day, who have found inspiration in his methods.
The timeframe for the exhibition is impressive, the research required vast. Paintings and prints have been highlighted, given their back-story, as it were, to lead the viewer through the changing and developing art world. Part of the historic allure was in Rembrandt’s embrace and revolutionising treatment of the print medium, making his own prints in a market that was used to more straightforward copies of other artists’ work. 
“Raphael and Rubens didn’t make their own prints, they didn’t use the medium to express their own artistic genius,” says Seifert, “but Rembrandt did – 300 times in his whole career.”
Cheaper than a Rembrandt painting, prints were a vehicle for disseminating his work widely from the 1750s onwards. There were dissenting voices, of course. In Roger de Piles’ The Art of Painting, the writer begins by chastising Rembrandt for his desire to do “nothing more than to imitate nature”, yet goes on to describe his rough-hewn portraits as “expressive and lively”.
Among all the loans, UK and international, one of the highlights of the show is Rembrandt’s The Mill (1645-48), once held in the UK, which has been brought from the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC. 
There are controversial prints made of English buildings such as St Paul’s Cathedral, which have prompted questions about whether the artist spent time in England. Seifert believes it unlikely, not least due to the rather imaginative treatment of the historic facades he has drawn, making it much more likely that they are copies from other artists’ works. The artistic responses down the centuries are diverse and instructive.
If it was Rembrandt’s prints that helped disseminate his work in the 18th century and the collecting of his work by artist collectors (there is work here from Henry Raeburn and Joshua Reynolds – both interested in and influenced by Rembrandt), it was the grand exhibitions from 1899 onwards at the Royal Academy in London that brought Rembrandt’s paintings to an even wider public and artistic view. In the 20th century, artists from Eduardo Paolozzi to John Bellany, Frank Auerbach, Lucien Freud and Glenn Brown have created works copied from or inspired by Rembrandt.
For despite the undue criticisms that were levelled at Rembrandt, from his naturalism to his inspired use of light to his chiaroscuro, so different from the academic paintings to which the public was accustomed, says Seifert, “then he becomes a genius, and he is allowed to have these ‘defects’ ”.
Rembrandt: Britain’s Discovery of the Master, RSA building, Scottish National Gallery, The Mound, Edinburgh, 0131 624 6200,, until 13 October, daily 10am-5pm, Thurs until 7pm, tickets £10-£15, concessions available

Don't miss: The artist Robert Callender’s topical work referencing environmental disaster can be seen in this retrospective at the City Art Centre in Edinburgh, his works Plastic Beach and Coastal Collection a remaking and reworking of items found on the beach – all 500 of them. Callendar, who died in 2011, worked across many media, from painting to sculpture, and his fascinating work can be seen here until tomorrow. Robert Callender: Plastic Beach... Poetry of the Everyday, The City Art Centre, 2 Market Street, Edinburgh, 0131 529 3993,, until 8 July, daily, 10am-5pm

Critics Choice: Harmony without extremism of form, simplicity and truth to materials, a love of nature, economy – these are the traditional qualities of Korean art. While the development of the decorative arts, such as ceramics, glass, metalwork and jewellery, were influenced by Chinese culture in the Neolithic period and the innovations in Korean ceramics which that produced, Korean art has subsequently developed its own distinct and influential aesthetic. The art forms displayed here are from some of the foremost contemporary Korean artists working in the decorative arts, from silversmiths to ceramicists. All have, in some way, a connection to Scotland and the UK, many from studying and teaching here. Tradition and innovation combine in much of the work, not least Yun Ju Cheol’s Cheomjang (clay molecule), slipware which uses a tradition dating from the 14th century and updates it. Applying tiny dots of slipware in incremental stages, he builds up 50-100 layers, creating ceramic objects with a bristly, tactile surface. Heeseung Koh’s wooden jewellery is elegant and finely crafted, created from the notion of “plugging a hole”. Holes are made in smooth wooden plaques, filled with other objects and hung with iron wire or silver to create jewellery which is directly inspired by the strong yet damaged fabric of a cityscape. Inspired by the idea of the lapse of time in Samuel Beckett’s play Waiting for Godot, Bae Sejin creates ceramics out of tiny blocks, left, an act of repetition that is aimed at getting closer to the “repetitive and circular time of nature by continuing the repetition of labour”. Also featured are the finely hammered silverware of Dong-Hyun Kim and William Lee, and ceramics, woodwork and jewellery from Jongjin Park, Park Seohee, Misun Won, Inhwa Lee, Choi Keeryong, Kyosun Yung, Park Hong-gu and Hyejeong Kim. Korean Connection, The Scottish Gallery, 16 Dundas Street, Edinburgh, 0131 558 1200, Mon-Fri