Van Rijn Rembrandt Biography | Oil Paintings
7-15-1606 Leiden, NED – 10-4-1669 Amsterdam, NEDBack to Artist IndexView Artists Paintings
One of Holland's greatest and most versatile artists, Rembrandt Van Rijn trained under several painters, the most influential of these being Pieter Lastman. For a time he shared a studio with Jan Lievens, but by the early 1630s, he had moved to Amsterdam, where he established a formidable reputation as a portraitist. Rembrandt did not paint a single anonymous or ordinary face. This penetrating artist knew how to convey expressions, gestures, and even subtle emotion through his supple, insistent brushwork.
Rembrandt's art follows the course of his life, as is most eloquently and poignantly demonstrated by the series of self-portraits painted over a period of forty years. Son of a miller, Rembrandt's first paintings, portraying his home town of Leiden, were small, very finely rendered works depicting biblical or literary subjects. After settling in Amsterdam, his fame steadily increased, as did his finances.
Rembrandt The Power of Color, the Intensity of the Soul.
Rembrandt Van Rijn's approach to group portraiture, in particular, was extremely ambitious. This painting, The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp, was commissioned for the seat of the surgeons guild in Amsterdam. He is dissecting the left arm of the corpse, exposing the tendons, while his left-hand mimes the contractions and the movements of the fingers. The anatomical accuracy is evidence of Rembrandt's direct observation. In fact, he is interested in the movement and has a knowledge of the human body equal to that of Leonardo da Vinci. Thirty years after The Anatomy Lesson, Rembrandt returned to the group portrait with Syndics of the Drapers Guild.
His first years of marriage with Saskia van Uylenburch were the happiest of Rembrandt's life and he abandoned his small-format early paintings for monumental compositions, similar to those of Rubens and the Italian Renaissance masters. In 1642, his career reached a peak with The Night Watch. As the 1640s progressed, Rembrandt's art entered a more reflective phase. He painted fewer fashionable portraits, preferring instead to depict the inner life. This can be seen in his magnificent religious paintings, in his intimate, unidealized portrayals of his two wives, Saskia and Hendrickje, and in a penetrating series of self-portraits, perhaps the finest ever produced by an artist.
In 1642 Rembrandt's career peaked with The Night Watch.
The title of Rembrandt's most famous masterpiece The Night Watch is not a true description of the scene, which depicts a festive daytime parade rather than a night watch. This painting was executed to decorate the assembly hall of the Amsterdam civic militia. There was a tradition of group portraits of civil defense organizations, which were essentially police corps and watchmen that had been organized during the war of independence, but were now merely symbolic.
The Amsterdam volunteer militia consisted of wealthy and upper-middle-class men and somewhat undisciplined and un-soldierly. The members of the civic guard shared the artist's fees, which they paid according to their rank and prominence within the oil painting. One person not paying, is the short man near the center visible behind the standard bearer. Only his eyes and beret are recognizable, but these details are enough to identify the character without a doubt. Rembrandt painted himself among the figures in his greatest work.
The most resplendent figure is Lieutenant Willem van Ruytenburgh in his elegant embroidered white uniform. The protagonist to of the scene is Captain Frans Banning Cocq, sober and elegant in his dark suit with a red sash. With an authoritative gesture, he calls on the Lieutenant to bring his rowdy, unruly company of harquebusiers to order. The shadow of Captain Cocq's hand can be clearly seen on the lower part of the ambitious Lieutenant's jacket. This indicates the angle of the light and is evidence that the scene takes place during the day as they walked out into a ray of sunshine. The fact that the colors had darkened with time, led to the erroneous conclusion that this painting was a night scene.
Thanks to the fact that the contract and other documents from the period still exist, it has been possible to identify many of the figures in the painting. Nonetheless, some characters and details remain mysterious, such as the strange, radiant little girl running away with a chicken tied to her belt, which might be an allusion to the captain's surname.
In the general dynamic scheme, twenty-eight adults and three children move confusedly, generating a sense of disorganized animation. The striking contrast of light and color, the individual portrayal of each character, and the total mastery of this complicated composition establish this painting as the absolute high point in Rembrandt's career.
In 1642 Rembrandt's career plunges to disaster.
By a fatal coincidence, the painting coincided with the death of his beloved wife Saskia from tuberculosis at the early age of thirty, marked the beginning of a series of misfortunes that led Rembrandt to complete bankruptcy. Thus, the year 1642 marks a sad watershed in Rembrandt's art and life. From this moment on, his private life plunged toward seemingly endless disaster. His painting, however, soared toward the Absolute, pervaded by an awesome existential intensity and infinite abandon.
Toward the end of his life, he produced timeless masterpieces that are intensely human and have a depth of feeling that becomes almost unbearable. With an impressive mastery of light, color, and the pigment itself, Rembrandt strikes the very chord of tenderness and love with The Jewish Bride. The death of his beloved son Titus in 1668 was the last tragic blow in this moving human drama and also to a unique period in the history of art.
Portraits, The Story of Rembrandt's Life.
The beginning and the end of Rembrandt's career and life are both captured in these two paintings, both in the Mauritshuis in The Hague. The forty years between youthful Self-Portrait with Lace Collar in 1629 and the Self-Portrait in 1669, painted the year of his death, have taken their toll on his face and body.
The confident and well-built youth has become a weak and hunched old man with heavy, though still recognizable features marked by a prominent nose. The application of the paint has also radically changed. The small, precise strokes of his youth, with the striking note of light gleaming on metal, have been replaced by thick, heavy brushwork that absorbs the light. Rembrandt does not conceal the ravages of time and the adversity, though his expression still possesses a touching dignity and the wisdom of the man and the artist.
Rembrandt Van Rijn's later work was less commercially successful and, although this led to insolvency, the popular image of him as a pauper is entirely fictitious. A prolific and versatile master of three media, he is generally considered one of the greatest visual artists in the history of art and the most important in Dutch art history.
Art Movement: Baroque, Dutch Golden Age.
Artists Influencing Rembrandt Van Rijn: Pieter Lastman, Peter Paul Rubens, Titian.
Painters Rembrandt Influenced: Ferdinand Bol, Adriaen Brouwer, Gerrit Dou, Willem Drost, Heiman Dullaart, Gerbrand van den Eeckhout, Carel Fabritius, Govert Flinck, Hendrick Fromantiou, Aert de Gelder, Abraham Janssens, Godfrey Kneller, Philip de Koninck, Jacob Levecq, Nicolaes Maes, Willem de Poorter, Jan Victors, Willem van der Vliet.
Artist Biography compiled by Albert L. Mansour at The World's Artist.