Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (July 15, 1606October 4, 1669) is generally considered the most important Dutch painter of the 17th century. Rembrandt was also a proficient engraver and made many drawings. His contributions to art were made in a period that historians call the Dutch Golden Age (roughly equivalent to the 17th century), in which Dutch culture, science, commerce, world power and political influence reached its pinnacle.


- Self-portrait by Rembrandt (1661) -

Table of contents
1 Oeuvre
2 Life
3 Influences
4 Students
5 Periods, Themes and Styles
6 Museum Collections
7 Famous Works
8 The Night Watch
9 Expert Assesments
10 External Links

Oeuvre

All in all Rembrandt produced around 600 paintings, 300 etchings and 2000 drawings. He was a prolific painter of self-portraits, producing almost a hundred of them (including some 20 etchings) throughout his long career. Together they give us a remarkable clear picture of the man, his looks, but more importantly his emotions, as misfortune and sorrow etched wrinkles in his face.

His command of light and dark, often using stark contrasts, thus drawing the viewer into the painting, his dramatic and lively scenes, devoid of any rigid formality that contemporary artists often displayed, his ostensibly deep felt compassion for mankind, irrespective of wealth and age, are among the promiment characteristics of his work.

His immediate family — his first wife Saskia, his son Titus, and his second wife Hendrickje — often figured prominently in his paintings, many of which had mythical, biblical, or historical themes.

Life

Rembrandt was born in Leiden. His was father a miller, his mother a baker's daughter, and he was one of nine children. He spent his youth and most of his early years as a painter in that city. He attended Latin school and studied less than a year on the University of Leiden.

In 1621 he decided to dedicate himself fully to painting and took lessons from Leiden artist Jacob van Swanenburgh. After a brief but important apprenticeship in Amsterdam, Rembrandt opened a studio in Leiden, which he shared with friend and colleague Jan Lievens. In 1627 Rembrandt began to accept students.

In 1631, Rembrandt had established such a sound reputation that he received several assignments for portraits from Amsterdam. This made him move to that city and move into the house of his art dealer Hendrick van Uylenburgh. In 1634, Rembrandt married Hendrick's wealthy niece Saskia van Uylenburg. A daughter of a patrician, she introduced him in higher social circles, which increased his fame.

In 1639, Rembrandt and Saskia moved to a prominent house in the Jodenbreestraat, in the Jewish quarter (which later has been turned into the Rembrandt House Museum). Three of their children died shortly after birth. In 1641 they had a fourth child, a son, whom they called Titus (1641-1668). Saskia died soon after.

In 1645, Hendrickje Stoffels, (who had initially been Rembrandt's maidservant), moved in with him. In 1654 this brought him an official reproach from the church for 'living in sin'. In that same year the couple had a daughter, Cornelia.

Rembrandt lived above his means, buying lots of art pieces, costumes (often used in his paintings) and rarities, which caused his bankruptcy in 1656. He had to sell his house and move to a more modest accommodation on the Rozengracht. Here his wife Hendrickje and son Titus started an art shop to make ends meet. Rembrandt's fame waned in these years, only be restored in later years.

Rembrandt outlived Hendrickje and Titus. In the end only his daughter Cornelia was at his side. He died October 4, 1669 in Amsterdam in poverty and was buried in an unknown grave in the Westerkerk.

Influences

Rembrandt's first teacher, Jacob van Swanenburgh, taught him much of the art of etching.

Rembrandt studied with Pieter Lastman for half a year in Amsterdam. Lastman, a painter of biblical, mythological and historical scenes, is considered a major influence. He gave Rembrandt a good sense of composition and made him perceptive of religion and history as sources of inspiration for this work. Lastman had himself studied in Italy, in the early years of the century, and naturally passed his Italian discoveries to Rembrandt.

Students

Many students of Rembrandt became famous in their own right. Among them were: Rembrandt experts disagree about the authenticity of many of paintings that were long attibuted to him: Were they made by Rembrandt himself, by one of his students, or both?

Periods, Themes and Styles


- The Nightwatch (1642) -

Museum Collections

In the Netherlands, the most notable collection of Rembrandt's work is at Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum, including The Night Watch and The Jewish Bride. Many of his self-portraits are held in the Hague's Mauritshuis. His home, preserved as the Rembrandt house museum in Amsterdam, houses many examples of his engravings. Prominent collections in other countries can be found in Berlin, St. Petersburg, New York City, Washington D.C. The Louvre and the British Museum.

Famous Works

  • 1632 Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp (Mauritshuis, The Hague)
  • 1635 Belshazzar's Feast (National Gallery, London)
  • 1636 The Blinding of Samson
  • 1636 DanaŽ (State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg)
  • 1653 Sacrifice of Isaac (State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg)
  • 1642 The Militia Company of Captain Frans Banning Cocq better known as the Night Watch (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam)
  • ±1643 Christ Healing the Sick also known as The Hundred Guilders Print (Victoria and Albert Museum, London) etching, nicknamed for the huge sum (at that time) paid for it
  • 1654 Bathsheba at Her Bath (Louvre, Paris) (Hendrickje is thought to have modeled for this painting)
  • 1661 Conspiracy of Julius Civilis (National Museum, Stockholm) (Julius Civilis led a Dutch revolt against the Romans) (most of the cut up painting is lost, only the central part still exists)
  • 1662 Syndics of the Drapers' Guild (Dutch De Staalmeesters) (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam)
  • 1664 The Jewish Bride (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam)
  • 1669 Return of the Prodigal Son (State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg)
This is just a small selection. Many of Rembrandts paintings are famous around the world.

The Night Watch

Rembrandt painted The Militia Company of Captain Frans Banning Cocq between 1640 and 1642. This picture was called the Patrouille de Nuit, by the French and the Night Watch, by Sir Joshua Reynolds because upon its discovery the picture was so dimmed and defaced by time that it was almost indistinguishable and it looked quite like a night scene. After it was cleaned up, it was discovered to represent broad day--a party of musketeers stepping from a gloomy courtyard into the blinding sunlight.

The piece was commissioned for the new hall of the Kloveniersdoelen, the musketeer branch of the civic militia. Rembrandt departed from convention, which ordered that such genre pieces should be stately and formal, rather a line-up than an action scene. Instead he showed the militia readying themselves to embark on a mission (what kind of mission, an ordinary patrol or some special event is matter of debate). His new approach caused a row, especially among the militia members that ended up at the back of the scene and were hardly visible. Payment was delayed. Even parts of the canvas were cut off to make the painting fit on the designated wall.

This painting now hangs in the largest hall of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. It is a large painting taking up the entire back wall - despite having bits cut off before - and is arguably one of the most impressive paintings displayed there.

Expert Assesments

In 1968 the Rembrandt Research Project (RRP) was started under the sponsorship of the Netherlands Organization for the Advancement of Scientific Research (NWO). Art historians teamed up with experts from other fields to reassess the authenticity of works attributed to Rembrandt, using all methods available, including state of the art technical diagnostics, and compile a complete critical catalog of his paintings. As a result of their findings many paintings that were previously attributed to Rembrandt have been taken from the list. Many of those are now thought to be the work of his students such as The Polish Rider, one of the treasures of New York's Frick Collection. Years ago, its authenticity was questioned by several scholars, led by Julius Held. Many now attribute the painting to one of Rembrandt's closest and most talented pupils, Willem Drost including, Dr. Josua Bruyn of the Foundation Rembrandt Research Project.

As of 2003, the investigation is still in progress.

Today, a Rembrandt painting can sell for more than US$28 million.

External Links