Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn
Dutch – Baroque
No other artist conjours up instant images of the Old Masters
more than this artist does. His paintings give us clues
into the of a master. The art historian Sister Wendy Becket
says of Rembrandt, “Rembrandt is a master story teller.” We
see this in all of his work; but he still leaves it up to our imagination
to interpret the mood and the subjects...
It is believed that Rembrandt was born in the Dutch city of Leiden in the year 1606 during
the Golden Age of Dutch painting. He comes from a large family
and was the ninth child of Neeltje van Suijttbroeck and her husband
Harmen Gerritsz van Rijn. The parents had been married for seventeen
years by the time Rembrandt arrived to the couple. It was a large family, and there were
ten children in the van Rijn family. Rembrandt’s father was malt miller
by profession and worked for one of the local breweries.
The family encouraged all their children to become craftsmen,
sending all Rembrandt's siblings to be trained in one craft or
another. Of all the siblings, Rembrandt was the only one
who was encouraged to go to school to study Latin. Between 1613
and 1620, Rembrandt spent seven years at the school and then
he enrolled at the University of Leiden to study the Classics. (For us to keep things in perspective, timewise, 1620 is also the year that the first immigrants traveled on the Mayflower to Plymouth, Massachusetts in the United States.)
It appears that after Rembrandt joined the school he changed his course a while later and began studying
under the supervision of the artist Jacob Isaacsz van Swanenburgh.
Historians believe that his short apprenticeship under this Dutch
Historical painter, Pieter Lastman, may have had a greater and more lasting
influence on his body of work, than his first teacher.
The first of Rembrandt’s work were history paintings (these
were paintings created to document specific historical events)
these came from the first studio that he established along with
another artist by the name of Jan Lievens. During this period,
Rembrandt produces many self portraits, etchings and numerous
sketches. It appears that his major break through was in
1628 when he is discovered by Constantijn Huygens, secretary
of Prince Frederik Hendrick. This man was well educated and appreciated
the fine work of skilled artists. The former soon becomes a patron
of Rembrandts and this leads to further commissions by the English
The young artist is greatly encouraged by the initial success
that he received and is drawn to the larger city of Amsterdam.
In 1631 he moves in with a well known art dealer. This exposure
quickly helps Rembrandt make a name for him self and he is soon
recognized as a portrait painter sought after by rich patrons.
A prolific painter, Rembrandt painted over thirty works during
the year of 1632. He was also commissioned by a wealthy
surgeon, Dr. Nicolaes Tulp who is well known in Amsterdam.
In the year 1634, Rembrandt fell in love with Saskia van Uylenburgh,
who was the niece of the art dealer; the couple married and continued
to live in Amsterdam. Rembrandt joined the Guild of St Luke where
he begins working and training pupils and apprentices. There
are several artists who went on to become famous artists after
studying under the tutelage of Rembrandt. One is the famous Govert
Flinct and the other Ferdinand Bol. A couple of years later,
in 1636, Rembrandt begins to trade
in scientific and exotic items as well as some historic artifacts. He
also collects plants. We can see evidence of this love for the exotic
in some of his paintings, his models are dressed in fine clothing
and the settings are very dramatic. It is also thought that he used
his wife, Saskia as a model for several of his paintings.
Rembrandts life begins to be filled with sadness and stress.
The couple looses the first child, a baby boy who dies in 1635.
Three years later, in 1638 a daughter is born to the couple and
she too passes away as a baby. Two years pass and in 1640 Rembrandt‘s
mother passes away. The couple moved into a new house in
Breestraat and he works to pay it off in a short period of time,
hopefully five to six years. In 1641, the couple finally has
a new child, a boy, Titus. All appears well when grief strikes
again. In 1642, sadly, Saskia suddenly dies and leaves the artist
grief stricken and in crisis with a young child under the age
of two years old.
A woman by the name of Geertge Dircx moves into the home to take care of the baby, and it is thought that she was more than a care giver to the child. Rembrandt continued to work on his painting,
producing several famous etchings. The artist’s fame and
notoriety continued to grow and his work was sought after by many.
Rembrandt and the woman Geertge had disagreements and eventually
the woman takes him to court claiming that Rembrandt pledged
to her and broke his vow. The case is thrown out
and the woman spends several years under incarceration of some kind. Eventually another
woman by the name of Hendrickje Stoffels moves into the household to help the
widowed father and Rembrandt falls in love with the woman and they share the home together. They have a daughter, named Cornelia, but were not married.
Some believe that Rembrandt may lived above his means, what ever
the case, he found himself in debt and was borrowing money even
though he received sizable payments from the sales of his work.
In 1656 Rembrandt declares personal bankruptcy. A few years
later his home and great collections are sold to pay debts and
he moves in with his Jewish and Mennonite friends at the Roozzengracht. Here
the artist, at the young age of 52 leads a very quite life.
As time passed, during the year of 1660, Titus, Rembrandt’s
son and the woman Hendrickje open an art shop and Rembrandt is
hired by them to teach. He continues to teach students and to
paint commissioned work. Three years later, Hendrickje suddenly
passes away. It seems that the artist no sooner recovers from
one grave loss that he is devastated by another. His son Titus,
a mature young man now just twenty four years old, falls in love
and marries a woman named Magdalena van Loo in the winter of
1665. Only six months later the family suffers another heartbreaking
loss, Titus too passes away. Rembrandt moves in with the young
widow, his new daughter-in-law. There the artists spends his
final days and passes away at the age of sixty three on October
4th. 1669. This artist leaves a legacy for generations to come.
Perhaps, and this may be speculation, but the seriousness of
the artists works may explain the sorrows and trials of his life.
Rembrandt – Michael Bockemuhl ISBN - 382286320-3
Rembrandt the Master & his Workshop – Christopher Brown,
Jan Kelch, Pieter van Thiel
The Treasures by Rembrandt by Michiel Roscam Abbiny
The Age of Rembrandt - Exerbition catalog under the patronage of Her Royal Highness Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands and Mrs Lyndon B. Johnson.