Birthday: July 15, 1606
Died At Age: 63
Sun Sign: Cancer
Also Known As: Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn
Born in: Leiden, Netherlands
Famous as: Painter
Spouse/Ex-: Saskia van Uylenburgh
father: Harmen Gerritszoon van Rijn
mother: Neeltgen Willemsdochter van Zuytbrouck
siblings: Adriaen van Rijn, Cornelis van Rijn, Gerrit van Rijn, Lysbeth van Rijn, Machtelt van Rijn, Willem van Rijn
children: Cornelia van Rijn, Titus van Rijn
Died on: October 4, 1669
place of death: Amsterdam, Netherlands
City: Leiden, Netherlands
education: Leiden University
Who was Rembrandt?
Rembrandt was a Dutch painter counted amongst the greatest European painters of all time. He lived during the era of the Dutch Golden Age, a period in the 17th century in which Dutch trade, science, military, and art were among the most acclaimed in the world. Having worked during one of the most vibrant periods in Dutch history, Rembrandt rose to fame as a highly creative, sincere, and empathetic artist and is today revered as one of the greatest artists to have ever existed. Born into a well-to-do family in Leiden, he developed an inclination towards art and painting from a young age. As a young boy he apprenticed with history painter, Jacob van Swanenburgh, and Pieter Lastman, the latter of which lasted for only a short duration but left a significant influence on the would-be artist. After embarking on a career as a professional painter, Rembrandt soon gained considerable fame as a portraitist. He was especially acclaimed for his self-portraits which he created with an outstanding degree of sincerity and an uncompromising realism. He was also renowned for his paintings of biblical scenes and innovative etchings. He mentored a large number of pupils including Hendrick Fromantiou, Aert de Gelder, Samuel Dirksz van Hoogstraten, and Abraham Janssens, who went on to become reputed artists in their own rights
Childhood & Early Life
Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn was born on 15 July 1606 in Leiden, in the Dutch Republic, now the Netherlands. His parents were Harmen Gerritszoon van Rijn and Neeltgen Willemsdochter van Zuytbrouck, and he was their ninth child. His father worked as a miller and his family was a well-to-do one.
He attended Latin school and is believed to have enrolled at the University of Leiden for his higher studies.
He was interested in the arts from an early age and was apprenticed to a Leiden history painter, Jacob van Swanenburgh, who was renowned for his ability to paint fire and illumination. The influence of this early training period can be observed in many of Rembrandt’s future paintings.
After training under van Swanenburgh for three years, he apprenticed for six months with the painter Pieter Lastman in Amsterdam. Lastman was a famous history painter and under his tutelage Rembrandt learned the skill of placing figures from biblical, historical and allegorical scenes in complex settings. Some sources also suggest that he received training from the painter Joris van Schooten too.
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After completing his training, Rembrandt became a professional artist and opened a studio in Leiden in the mid-1620s with the help of a friend and fellow painter, Jan Lievens. He began experimenting with etchings and started painting biblical scenes.
He developed his own unique style of painting light and illumination that made him very famous. His paintings ‘Peter and Paul Disputing’ (1628) and ‘Judas Repentant and Returning the Pieces of Silver’ (1629) are some of the paintings which display his ingenuity in handling the concept of light.
Rembrandt achieved considerable success within a few years of becoming a professional painter and this attracted numerous aspiring painters to his studio who were eager to be trained by the great master. In the late 1620s he began accepting students and Gerrit Dou was one of his early pupils.
Rembrandt became acquainted with the statesman Constantijn Huygens which proved to be quite profitable for the artist. Huygens greatly appreciated Rembrandt’s paintings and starting from 1629, helped the artist in procuring important commissions from the court of The Hague.
Buoyed by his success, Rembrandt moved to Amsterdam in 1631 in order to expand his business. He initially stayed with an art dealer, Hendrick van Uylenburgh, who had a workshop that created portraits and restored paintings. During this time Rembrandt began working as a portraitist for the first time and was praised for the realism in his portraits.
During the 1630s he also began painting dramatic biblical and mythological scenes in large format. Some of his works from this period include ‘The Blinding of Samson’ (1636), ‘Belshazzar's Feast’ (c. 1635), and ‘Danaë’ (1636).
His style underwent a significant change in the 1640s. His paintings now became less dramatic and more sober in tone. The 1640s also marked a tragic period in his personal life which might have been the reason behind his changed style of painting. During this difficult period he painted several biblical scenes from the New Testament than the Old Testament.
The 1650s saw more changes in his style of art. He took to painting with more vibrant hues and bolder brushstrokes. His new style departed considerably from his older delicate style and became coarser. The biblical themes in his later paintings shifted to intimate portrait-like figures from the dramatic group scenes he once used to specialize in.
His painting ‘The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp’ (1632) is a much-discussed one among the medical fraternity. In the oil painting he depicted Dr. Nicolaes Tulp, a famous Dutch surgeon, explaining the musculature of the arm to medical professionals.
His 1642 painting, ‘The Night Watch’ is one of his more ambitious works. Considered to be a world renowned example of Baroque art, the painting is famous for the effective use of light and shadow, and the perception of motion in what would have traditionally been a static military portrait.
Personal Life & Legacy
Rembrandt married his friend Hendrick's cousin, Saskia van Uylenburgh, in 1634. His wife was the daughter of a lawyer. His family life was marked with several great personal tragedies. Even though his wife gave birth to four children, only one of them survived infancy. His wife too died young, leaving him devastated.
He had a short term relationship with his son’s nurse Geertje Dircx following the death of his wife. Later on he became romantically involved with a much younger woman, Hendrickje Stoffels, who had initially been his maid. This union produced a daughter. Even though the couple did not marry formally, the two were considered legally wed under common law.
In spite of being a successful painter who earned great wealth, Rembrandt was also known for his extravagant and lavish lifestyle which almost drove him to bankruptcy.
His last years were very tragic ones as both his common-law wife and his son predeceased the great artist. He died on 4 October 1669 in Amsterdam, and was buried in an unknown grave in the Westerkerk. He was a poor man at the time of his death.