Rembrandt van Rijn, 1606-1669
Dutch Painter, graphic artist.
Born in the Netherlands, Rembrandt van Rijn was the unparalleled artist of the 17th century.
Both a master painter and printer, Rembrandt’s work was dedicated to recording the people he knew. He imbued his subjects with instantly recognizable humanity in all its forms, amounting to incredible studies of lines, light, shade and color. Although he never left Holland, Rembrandt culled countless original prints by Northern masters such as Albrecht D¸rer as well as engravings and woodblocks by Italian masters such as Michelangelo and Titian. This extensive knowledge of varied artists contributed significantly to the development of Rembrandt's unique vision.
In 1631, Rembrandt moved to Amsterdam. He became the leading portrait painter in Holland and received many commissions for portraits as well as for paintings of religious subjects. Artistically, Rembrandt broke ground by reconfiguring well-known genres such as portraits or landscapes, and subsequently his subject matters became as diverse as Amsterdam. The dramatic group portrait entitled Nightwatch, 1642, exemplified this innovation. Additionally, when Rembrandt did not have access to a portrait model, he opted to paint or sketch himself. It is estimated that he painted almost sixty self-portraits.
Regarding Rembrandt's unwavering stature, arguably no other artist's work speaks so eloquently to the viewer. The emotions one sees on the canvas are instantly recognizable; the Dutch master’s exquisite brushwork effortlessly reveals the face as a portal into the soul. The clarity of a Rembrandt portrait can be likened to the precision and crisp lines in a photograph, such that the technical brilliance captures every nuance of human emotion like that of a camera lens.
Rembrandt’s achievements in etching were unprecedented in the 17th century and continue to remain that way today. Over the course of his career, Rembrandt produced several hundred etchings which were printed hundreds of times, and today they are the most cataloged works of art worldwide. Solely from a print perspective, Rembrandt profoundly influenced innumerable later artists, including Francisco Goya, Vincent Van Gogh, Thomas Eakins, James MacNeil Whistler, Odilon Redon, and Pablo Picasso. It is astonishing to think that Rembrandt’s technical virtuosity was already fully recognized in his lifetime when the first collections of his work were assembled.