Rembrandt’s biography, life, and works

One of the greatest painters in the history of art, the leading artist of the great age of Dutch painting, Rembrandt van Harmensz van Rijn was born on July 15, 1606, the eighth son of a miller in Leiden, but has always been considered an Amsterdam painter (which in those years was at the height of its commercial power) where he moved in 1631 and where he married Saskia, the daughter of a well-known art dealer. Certainly, Rembrandt is considered the greatest painter of Holland and among the greatest of all time.

For range, originality, and expressive power, his great production of paintings, drawings, and engravings has never been surpassed. His peculiarity and pictorial mastery lie in the fact that he has left us, as never before other painters, many self-portraits (including the one shown above) that document the different phases of his life. In trying to grasp the full extent of Rembrandt’s success, the mistake of interpreting his works as an autobiography has sometimes been made. This is not true. His experiences are reflected in his works not directly but transfigured into art. Art’s vicissitudes are different from the vicissitudes of life, and very little is understood of the relationships between these two different spheres of being. The few mundane facts we know about Rembrandt’s life do not begin to explain his works or his extraordinary abilities.

Through the Utrecht school and his teacher Lastman learned the lesson of another genius, the Italian Caravaggio. In the painter’s portraits you can see different clothes, expressions, poses and accessories and a sharp gaze that seems to magically dart out of the picture. Rembrandt was like this, superb and ambitious, in search of fame and glory, in constant competition with his masters, such as the famous painter Pieter Lastamn. Most of all, however, it was the figure and celebrity of the “prince of painters and painter of princes” who obsessed him, the idol of the previous generation: Peter Paul Rubens.

The main feature of Rembrandt’s works is chromaticity and the skillful use of light. His production is generally divided into four periods: that of Leiden (1625-1631), which is influenced by the Italian influences of Annibale Carracci and Caravaggio (Portrait of Nicolaes Ruts, 1631); the early Amsterdam period (1632-1639) (Dr. Tulp’s Anatomy Lesson, 1632, Self-Portrait with Saskia, 1634); the second period of Amsterdam (Night Watch, 1642, with the light coming from the dark background); the third Amsterdam period (1651-1669), with portraits, self-portraits and the Jewish Bride (1665). There are also numerous graphic works by him. The deaths of his life caused a subsequent growing internalization of the artist. This, combined with the detachment from conventional and classical forms, projected him towards a wholly modern painting expression. Still, unfortunately, he did not meet the tastes of the time, and it created considerable economic hardship since, as has been said, he died alone and poor. Also notable among his productions are Samson Blinded by the Philistines, 1636; Christ and the adulteress, 1644; The pilgrims of Emmaus, 1648; Young Man Bathing in a Stream, 1655; Self-Portrait with a Staff, 1658.


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