Self Portrait aged 54
by Rembrandt van Rijn
This person is associated with: Dutch Golden Age
Dutch Golden painter and etcher.
The most celebrated and influential Dutch painter whose
intimate psychological studies of human nature and emotions makes him an
instantly recognizable and admired artist to this day. His self- portraits are some of the most
revealing and penetrating of all portraiture, in the way he could spontaneously
capture his inner feelings. He painted
most types of genre from evocative religious scenes through mythology to
numerous portraits. He was equally adept
at sketching, drawing and etching. He ran
a large workshop with a team of students. This has made attribution extremely difficult and many of his works in
public and private hands have still not been totally authenticated. Because of his popularity in the following
century Rembrandt can claim many imitators. Where credible evidence has been proven, those works that were formerly
attributed to the artist or are still unverified, have been described in the
titles of his works on display here.
Rembrandt was his first name and he wanted to be known by
this in the manner of his heroes, Michelangelo and Raphael. He was a master in the way he managed light
and dark in his works, known as chiaroscuro; best displayed in the well-known ‘Nightwatch’,
which also shows movement, unusual at that time.
Rembrandt was born in Leiden in the Netherlands and attended
school there before going to Leiden University in 1620. He later was apprenticed to a local painter,
Jacob van Swanenburgh, and worked there for three years. In around 1624 Rembrandt joined the studio of Pieter
Lastman in Amsterdam and remained there for six months. This proved crucial in the manner
he developed as an artist. His style for
mythological and religious subjects took on a dramatic form in the use of lighting
and the gestures of his figures. He produced
his earliest known work, ‘The Stoning of Saint Stephen’ (Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lyon) in about 1625. He was
now working as an independent artist in Leiden.
In 1631-2 Rembrandt moved to Amsterdam, where he remained for
the rest of his life. It was at this
time that his output concentrated on individual figures from biblical
times (his apostles for example). He also started to
paint self-portraits and portraits of his family. His earliest known commissioned portrait was
of Nicolaes Ruts, an Amsterdam merchant, in 1631 (Frick Collection, New York). This established him as the leading
portraitist in Amsterdam and he concentrated on portrait painting over the next
few years.The ‘Anatomy Lesson of Dr
Tulp’ (1632, Mauritshuis) was his early entry into group painting. He also painted a number of important
religious works during the 1630s.
In 1634 he married Saskia van Uylenburgh, a cousin of one of
his art dealer contacts and he produced a number of tender portraits of
her. In 1639 he moved into his new house
(now the Rembrandt Museum) in Amsterdam. Of the four children he had with Saskia, only Titus lived into adulthood
(1641-68). Rembrandt painted a number of
portraits of his son. But Saskia died in
1642, the year the artist painted his most famous subject, ‘The Night Watch’
(Rijksmuseum).This is the culminating
work of a series of portraits of Dutch militia, particularly associated with
another Dutch master, Frans Hals. This
painting shows considerable drama that Rembrandt introduced, with its powerful
lighting, movement and character studies in place of the formal standing positions favoured by Hals and similar portraitists.
From the mid-1640s Rembrandt's fortunes changed and in the late 1640s Rembrandt had a relationship
with Hendrickje Stoffels, who was much younger than the artist; this
produced a daughter in 1654. However, Rembrandt was living beyond his means,
having bought a substantial collection of antiquities, drawings, prints and in
1660 he sold his house and moved into smaller premises. He continued
to receive commissions and was active up until his death in 1669, having
outlived Hendrickje and Titus.
He was the master to Dou.