The Work of Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn

Arguably one of the greatest European painters of all time, Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn’s expressive portraits and biblical scenes defied the expectations of his day and his innovative use of light and brushstrokes described the rapid change in his environment at the time.  The Dutch painter learned his craft in a difficult climate.  After the reformation there were no Catholic commissions to sustain artists and Rembrandt relied on private individuals to finance his portraits and historical paintings.  Defying the standard practice of travel and study in Italy, Rembrandt developed a unique style all of his own by staying in his native country.  His success rocketed after a move to Amsterdam where he was married and where his work earned him an illustrious reputation as well as considerable wealth which he was notoriously bad at managing, indulging a love of antiquities and finery.  Clearly influenced by Caravaggio, his use of complex patterns of light and dark described ambiguous and subtle expressions which rendered his figures incredibly life-like and vulnerble-looking.  Rembrandt lost the love of his life in 1642 leaving him heartbroken and the soul carer for their young baby until employing and then falling in love with one of his servants.  As he aged and experimented, Rembrandt used broader brushstrokes describing far more painterly and expressive scenes using palette knives.  These smeared expressive marks contrasted sharply with his earlier work using sharper lines and precise application of paint and require his audience to move back to appreciate the descriptive power of his work from a distance.  His mark making has a more abstract power up close.  By the 1650s, Amsterdam was crippled by a massive economic depression, a terrible hangover to it’s earlier affluence and Rembrandt was pressured by creditors, loosing his house and many of his treasured possessions.  Forced to move to a poor district and shortly after loosing his partner, he found himself destitute though he couldn’t resist making an offer when a Holbein was put up for sale, unable to escape his magpie lust for finery.  During the last 20 years of his life, Rembrandt made numerous self portraits, intensively introspective and revealing, they chart the his deterioration in health and wealth yet mark the evolution of a highly individualistic and beautiful technique, unique to Rembrandt.  After having lost his entire family to ill health Rembrandt died, unrecorded and alone in 1669, a tragic and unjust fate for a man so full of ambition, romantic aspiration and unrivalled artistic vision.  His legacy lives on and his work is celebrated as that of a man who was able to elevate yet humanise the nobility and the nouveau riche in his portraiture, poignantly recognise his own flaws and mortality in his self portraits and transport, ennoble and move his audience with his dynamic and epic history paintings.

Rembrandt The_Nightwatch_by_Rembrandt rembrandt rembrandt.1661 rembrandt149.Rembrandt rembrandt_matthew rembrandt_jeremiah rembrandt_anatomy rembrandt_sp1640 rembrandt13 rembrandtportrait-of-a-man-workshop-of-rembrandt Rembrandt_Conspiracy_of_Julius_Civilis


2 responses to “The Work of Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn

  1. Pingback: A photographic study in light, Rembrant style and others | Labyrinth·

  2. Pingback: The Night Watch | Blair Stover Art History·

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