Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (1606 - 1669) was a Dutch Golden Age painter and one of the leading painters of European Baroque painting. He is also known as the greatest painter in Dutch history. Mastered in drawing, painting, and printmaking, he was both a talented artist and an avid collector with an eccentric temperament. He was a teacher and an art dealer but died in poverty due to his uncontrolled life. Rembrandt was a genius who explored the joys and pains of the world and expanded the possibilities of art beyond the reach of others.
Famous at a Young Age
As a young man who was already making a name for himself, Rembrandt entered Leiden University at 14. He went to Amsterdam at 17 to study painting with the historical painter Jacob van Swanenburg. At the age of 21 in 1627, Rembrandt had mastered the skills of oil painting, drawing, and etching and developed his own style. He returned to his hometown to open his studio and recruited apprentices to paint. He painted many self-portraits during this period. In 1631 Rembrandt left Leiden for Amsterdam and, in the 1930s, became Amsterdam's leading portrait painter. Rembrandt's portraits were dramatically arranged and deeply moving, and his works with mythological and religious stories were in demand. Almost all of the significant Dutch painters of the time came under his tutelage, and Rembrandt's pinnacle was portraiture, including self-portraits and paintings drawn from biblical stories. His self-portraits are like a unique autobiography, where the painter's self-examination is sincere and unpretentious.
In his oil paintings and prints, Rembrandt demonstrates his perfect mastery of classical imagery while adding his own experiences and observations. His paintings of biblical scenes, for example, reflect both his understanding of biblical texts, his use of classical composition, and his observations of the Jewish community in Amsterdam. Because of this empathetic power, he has been called the "one of the great prophets of civilization."
In the years 1640-1648, the misfortunes and torments of his life led him to a deeper observation and understanding of society, and his artistic creation also entered a deepening stage. The death of his son in 1642 caused him great grief, and the painting The Night Watch was initially not accepted by those who ordered it because it broke further with traditional painting methods, thus creating a deadlock. His other works of this period are also more closely staged, depicting the main figures implicitly, and thus were not as popular with the upper classes as they were in the 1930s, making his life more difficult.
In Rembrandt's work, the chiaroscuro method is fully utilized, and the painting technique, which focuses on capturing light and shadows, brings the figures to life. Unlike his contemporaries, Rembrandt does not express the beauty or wealth of his figures but rather their humanity and inner psychology after deep insight. The realistic presentation of the models is a major feature of Rembrandt's works. The subjects of his work are diverse, ranging from classic historical scenes, stories, and legends to scenes and portraits of everyday life. His wife and partner, Saskia Rembrandt and Hendrickje Stoffels, often served as models for the female figures in his work. Rembrandt uses a precise triangle of stereoscopic light to outline the contour lines of the figures, leaving the rest hidden in darkness. It gives a sense of stability and dignity. The visual effect of his paintings is as if the figure is standing on a black stage, with an intense light hitting his face.
Rembrandt painted more than 600 oil paintings, 300 etchings, 2,000 sketches, and around 100 self-portraits during his lifetime, and almost all of his family members appeared in his paintings.
Rembrandt's place in the history of painting-not only in the Netherlands but in all of Europe-is on a par with that of the great masters of the Italian Renaissance.