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      Rembrandt was a Dutch baroque artist who ranks as one of the  greatest
painters in the  history  of  Western  art.  His  full  name  was  Rembrandt
Harmenszoon van Rijn, and he possessed a  profound  understanding  of  human
nature that was matched by a brilliant technique- not only in  painting  but
in drawing and etching-  and  his  work  made  an  enormous  impact  on  his
contemporaries and influenced the style of many later  artists.  Perhaps  no
painter has  ever  equaled  Rembrandt's  chiaroscuro  effects  or  his  bold


      Born in Leiden on July 15, 1606, Rembrandt was the son  of  a  miller.
Despite the fact that he came from a family of relatively modest means,  his
parents took great care with his education. Rembrandt began his  studies  at
the Latin School, and at the age of 14 he was enrolled at the University  of
Leiden. The program did not interest him, and he soon  left  to  study  art-
first with a local master, Jacob van Swanenburch, and  then,  in  Amsterdam,
with Pieter Lastman, known for his historical paintings. After  six  months,
having mastered  everything  he  had  been  taught,  Rembrandt  returned  to
Leiden, where he was soon so highly regarded that although barely  22  years
old, he took his first pupils, among them Gerrit Dou.
      Rembrandt moved to Amsterdam in 1631; his marriage in 1634  to  Saskia
van Uylenburgh, the cousin of a successful art dealer, enhanced his  career,
bringing him in  contact  with  wealthy  patrons  who  eagerly  commissioned
portraits. An exceptionally fine example from this period  is  the  Portrait
of Nicolaes Ruts (1631, Frick  Collection,  New  York  City).  In  addition,
Rembrandt's mythological and religious works were much  in  demand,  and  he
painted numerous dramatic  masterpieces  such  as  The  Blinding  of  Samson
(1636, Stdelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt). Because of  his  renown  as  a
teacher, his studio was filled with pupils, some  of  whom  (such  as  Carel
Fabritius) were already trained artists. In the 20th century, scholars  have
reattributed a number of his paintings to his  associates;  attributing  and
identifying Rembrandt's works is an active area of art scholarship.
In contrast to his successful public  career,  however,  Rembrandt's  family
life was marked by misfortune. Between 1635 and 1641 Saskia  gave  birth  to
four children, but only the last, Titus, survived; her  own  death  came  in
1642.  Hendrickje  Stoffels,  engaged  as  his   housekeeper   about   1649,
eventually became his common-law wife and was the  model  for  many  of  his
      Despite Rembrandt's financial success as an artist, teacher,  and  art
dealer,  his  penchant  for  ostentatious  living  forced  him  to   declare
bankruptcy in 1656. An inventory of his collection of art  and  antiquities,
taken before an auction to pay his debts, showed the breadth of  Rembrandt's
interests: ancient sculpture, Flemish  and  Italian  Renaissance  paintings,
Far  Eastern  art,   contemporary   Dutch   works,   weapons,   and   armor.
Unfortunately, the results of the auction-including the sale of  his  house-
were disappointing.
These problems in  no  way  affected  Rembrandt's  work;  if  anything,  his
artistry increased. Some of the great paintings from  this  period  are  The
Jewish Bride (1632), The Syndics of  the  Cloth  Guild  (1661,  Rijksmuseum,
Amsterdam), Bathsheba (1654, Muse du Louvre,  Paris),  Jacob  Blessing  the
Sons of Joseph (1656, Staatliche Gemldegalerie,  Kassel,  Germany),  and  a
self-portrait  (1658,  Frick  Collection).  His  personal   life,   however,
continued to be marred by sorrow, for his beloved Hendrickje died  in  1663,
and his son, Titus, in 1668.  Eleven  months  later,  on  October  4,  1669,
Rembrandt died in Amsterdam.

                               Early Painting

      Rembrandt may have created more than  600  paintings  as  well  as  an
enormous number  of  drawings  and  etchings.  The  style  of  his  earliest
paintings, executed in the  1620s,  shows  the  influence  of  his  teacher,
Pieter Lastman, in the choice of dramatic  subjects,  crowded  compositional
arrangements, and emphatic contrasts of light and  shadow.  The  Noble  Slav
(1632, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City) shows Rembrandt's love  of
exotic costumes, a feature characteristic of many of his early works.
A magnificent canvas, Portrait  of  a  Man  and  His  Wife  (1633,  Isabella
Stewart  Gardner  Museum,  Boston),  shows  his  early  portrait   style-his
preoccupation with the sitters' features and with details  of  clothing  and
room furnishings; this careful rendering of interiors was to  be  eliminated
in his later works. Members of Rembrandt's family who served as  his  models
are sometimes portrayed in other guises, as in  Rembrandt's  Mother  as  the
Prophetess Anna (1631, Rijksmuseum), or the wistful Saskia as Flora,  (1634,
the Hermitage, Saint Petersburg).
Perhaps no artist  ever  painted  as  many  self-portraits  (about  60),  or
subjected  himself  to  such  penetrating  self-analysis.  Not  every  early
portrayal, however, can be  interpreted  as  objective  representation,  for
these pictures frequently served as studies of various  emotions,  later  to
be incorporated into  his  biblical  and  historical  paintings.  The  self-
portraits also may have served to demonstrate his  command  of  chiaroscuro;
thus, it is difficult to tell what Rembrandt looked like from such  a  self-
portrait as the one painted about 1628 (Rijksmuseum, on loan from  the  Daan
Cevat Collection, England), in which deep shadows cover most  of  his  face,
barely revealing his features. On the other hand, in none of these  youthful
self-portraits did he attempt to disguise his homely features.
      Biblical subjects account for about one-third  of  Rembrandt's  entire
production. This was somewhat unusual in  Protestant  Holland  of  the  17th
century, for church patronage was nonexistent  and  religious  art  was  not
regarded as important.  In  Rembrandt's  early  biblical  works,  drama  was
emphasized, in keeping with baroque taste.
      Among Rembrandt's first major public commissions in Amsterdam was  the
Anatomy Lesson of  Dr.  Tulp  (1632,  Mauritshuis,  The  Hague).  This  work
depicts the regents of the Guild of Surgeons gathered for a  dissection  and
lecture. Such group portraits were a  genre  unique  to  Holland  and  meant
substantial income for an artist in  a  country  where  neither  church  nor
royalty  acted  as  patrons   of   art.   Rembrandt's   painting   surpasses
commemorative portraits made by other Dutch  artists  with  its  interesting
pyramidal arrangement of the figures, lending naturalism to the scene.
Middle Period
      Many of Rembrandt's paintings of  the  1640s  show  the  influence  of
classicism in style and spirit.  A  1640  self-portrait  (National  Gallery,
London), based on works by  the  Italian  Renaissance  artists  Raphael  and
Titian, reflects his assimilation of classicism both in formal  organization
and in his expression of inner  calm.  In  the  Portrait  of  the  Mennonite
Preacher Anslo  and  His  Wife  (1641,  Staatliche  Museen,  Berlin-Dahlem),
quieter in feeling than his earlier work, the interplay between the  figures
is masterfully rendered; the preacher speaks, perhaps explaining a  biblical
passage to his wife, who quietly listens.  A  number  of  Rembrandt's  other
works depict dialogues and, like this one, represent  one  specific  moment.
In the moving Supper at Emmaus (1648, Muse du Louvre), Rembrandt's  use  of
light immediately conveys the meaning of the scene.
      His group portraiture continued to develop in richness and complexity.
The so-called Night Watch-more accurately titled  The  Shooting  Company  of
Captain  Frans  Banning  Cocq  (1642,  Rijksmuseum)-portrays  the   bustling
activity of a military company, gathered behind its leaders,  preparing  for
a parade or shooting contest. In departing from the  customary  static  mode
of painting rows of figures for the corporate portrait,  Rembrandt  achieved
a powerful dramatic effect. Despite the popular myth that the  painting  was
rejected by those who commissioned it, and led to a decline  in  Rembrandt's
reputation and fortune, it was actually well received. Many  of  Rembrandt's
landscapes in this middle period are romantic and based on  his  imagination
rather than recording specific places. The inclusion of  ancient  ruins  and
rolling hills, not a part of the flat Dutch countryside, as in River  Valley
with  Ruins  (Staatliche  Gemldegalerie,  Kassel),  suggests  a   classical
influence derived from Italy.

                                 Late Period

      Rembrandt's greatest  paintings  were  created  during  the  last  two
decades of his  life.  Baroque  drama,  outward  splendor,  and  superficial
details no longer mattered to him. His self-portraits, portrayals of  single
figures and groups, and historical and  religious  works  reveal  a  concern
with mood and with spiritual qualities. His palette grew  richly  coloristic
and his brushwork became increasingly bold; he  built  thick  impastos  that
seem miraculously to float over the canvas. In Portrait of  the  Painter  in
Old Age (1669?, National Gallery, London),  Rembrandt's  features  betray  a
slightly  sarcastic  mood.  One  of  his  finest  single  portraits   (1654,
Stichting Jan Six, Amsterdam) is that of Jan  Six.  Six,  wearing  a  deeply
colored red, gold, and gray costume,  is  shown  putting  on  a  glove.  The
portrait is painted in a semiabstract style  that  demonstrates  Rembrandt's
daring technical bravura. Six's quiet, meditative mood is expressed  by  the
subtle play of light on his face. In such late biblical works as  Potiphar's
Wife Accusing Joseph (1655, Staatliche Museen, Berlin-Dahlem), and the  very
moving  Return  of  the  Prodigal  Son  (1669?,  the  Hermitage)   Rembrandt
concentrated  on  the  inherent  psychological  drama  rather  than  on  the
excitement of the narrative as he had in  works  of  his  early  period.  In
general, after his early period, Rembrandt was not  particularly  interested
in allegorical and mythological subjects.

                                Graphic Work

      For Rembrandt, drawing and etching were  as  much  major  vehicles  of
expression as painting. Some  1400  drawings,  recording  a  wide  range  of
outward and inner visions, are attributed to  him,  works  mostly  done  for
their own sake rather than as preparatory studies for paintings  or  prints.
The majority of them are not signed, because they were made for his  private
use. Rembrandt's early drawings (of the 1630s) were frequently  executed  in
black or red chalk; later his favorite medium became pen and  ink  on  white
paper, often in combination with brushwork, lending a tonal accent. In  some
drawings,  such  as  The  Finding  of  Moses  (1635?,   Rijksprentenkabinet,
Amsterdam), a few charged  lines  indicating  three  figures  carry  maximum
expression. Other drawings were, in contrast, highly finished, such  as  The
Eastern Gate at Rhenen (Oostpoort) (1648?, Muse,  Bayonne,  France),  which
displays  details  of  architecture  and  perspective.  He  made   masterful
drawings throughout the early as well as mature phases  of  his  career.  An
example of an early work is Portrait of a Man in an Armchair,  Seen  Through
a  Frame  (1634,  private  collection,  New  York  City),  done  in   chalk,
considered Rembrandt's most finished portrait drawing.  Superb  later  works
are Nathan Admonishing David (1655-1656?, Metropolitan Museum), done with  a
reed pen, and a genre piece, A Woman Sleeping (Hendrickje?) (1655?,  British
Museum, London), a powerful brush drawing universally praised as one of  his
       Rembrandt's etchings were internationally renowned even during his
    lifetime. He exploited the etching process for its unique potential,
  using scribbling strokes to produce extraordinarily expressive lines. In
     combination with etching he employed the drypoint needle, achieving
      special effects with the burr in his mature graphic work. Indeed,
   Rembrandt's most impressive etchings date from his mature period. They
       include the magnificent full-length portrait of Jan Six (1647,
  Bibliothque Nationale, Paris), the famous Christ Healing the Sick, also
   known as the 100 Guilder Print (1642-1645?), the poetic landscape Three
   Trees (1643), and Christ Preaching, or La Petite Tombe (1652?), all in
                             the British Museum.

   [pic]The Music Party, 1626, oil on wood, Rijksmuseum at Amsterdam.
   [pic]The Rich Old Man from the Parable, detail, 1627, oil on wood,
   Gemldegalerie, Berlin.
   [pic]Self Portrait, 1627, oil on canvas, Staatliche Museen Kassel,
   Gemldegalerie Alte Meister.
   [pic]Self Portrait, 1629, oil on canvas, The Mauritshuis at The Hague.
   [pic]Self Portrait, 1629, panel, Pinakothek at Munich.
   [pic]Artist in his Studio, 1629, oil on panel, Museum of Fine Arts,
   [pic]Bust of an Old Man in a Fur Cap, 1630, oil on wood, Tiroler
   Landesmuseum Ferdinandeum, Innsbruck.
   [pic]Belshazzar's Feast, 1630-35, National Gallery at London.
   [pic]Nicolaes Ruts, 1631, oil on mahogany panel, Frick Collection at New

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