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Rembrandt

 

(1606-1669)

 

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

impasto.

 

Life

 

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, Stдdelsches 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

pictures.

 

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.

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