Art – Rembrandt’s Life

By Michael Russell

Rembrandt is an extraordinary Dutch painter, etcher and draftsman of the 1600s. He is most well known for his chiaroscuro, his brush work and the way in which he connected with the human soul. His life, however, was not a happy one.

Rembrandt’s full name is Rembrandt Harmenszoon Van Rijn. He was born on July 15, 1606 in Leiden, the Netherlands and was the son of a miller. His dad wanted him to have a real, learned profession but Rembrandt left the University of Leiden after becoming bored to study art. He began studying under a local teacher but soon left and studied in Amsterdam where he mastered all his lessons in only six months! Rembrandt was greatly influenced by Caravaggio.

At the age of only 22, Rembrandt moved back to Leiden and began to get his own students. One of his pupils was the famous artist Gerrit Dou. In 1631 he returned to Amsterdam where he became the most popular portrait painter in Holland. He received numerous commissions for portraits and paintings of religious matters. Rembrandt met Saskia van Uylenburgh and married her in 1634. She was a cousin of a very successful art dealer and she helped him to meet wealthy patrons who commissioned many paintings from him. He used her as a model in many of his paintings. Some of his works during this time were the Portrait of Nicolaes Ruts and The Blinding Samson.

During this time, Rembrandt’s paintings are mostly focused on strong lighting effects. He also became famous for his landscapes and etchings. Rembrandt painted between fifty and sixty self portraits during his lifetime!

Rembrandt’s private life, however, was very unfortunate. He had four children with Saskia but only one, Titus, survived infancy. Saskia died in 1642 at the age of only 30. In 1649, Hendrickje Stoffels, his housekeeper, became his common-law wife and was also a model for many of his paintings. Even though Rembrandt was very successful as an artist, art dealer and teacher, he enjoyed living very lavishly and had to declare bankruptcy in 1656. He even had to auction off his whole art collection and his house to pay for his debts.

His unfortunate life, however, didn’t affect his art. He painted many great paintings during this time, such as The Jewish Bride, Bathsheba, The Syndics of the Cloth Guild, Jacob Blessing the Sons of Joseph and a self portrait. His new love, Hendrickje, died in 1663 and his son Titus died in 1668. Titus was only 27 years old. Eleven months after Titus died, on October 4, 1669, Rembrandt himself died in Amsterdam.

Rembrandt is a master of art. He did more than 600 paintings and over 2,000 etchings and drawings! The works contain numerous different kinds of subject matters such as landscapes, portraits, nudes, genre scenes, animals and birds, religious subjects, mythological figures and self portraits. Most artists specialize in only certain types of subject matters. Rembrandt has a special talent of showing the true character of people in his works. He also uses a very mysterious, beautiful light and very thick brushwork. He is one of the most well known artists of all time!

By Michael Russell

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