Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn Essay

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn Essay

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Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn


Rembrandt (1606-1669), 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. 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.


II. Life

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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 Leiden University. 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 masterpi...


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...ly 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 Gemäldegalerie, Kassel), suggests a classical influence derived from Italy.

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