The Rembrandt reference article from the English Wikipedia on 24-Jul-2004
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Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (July 15, 1606 - October 4, 1669) is generally considered one of the greatest painters in European art history, and the most important Dutch painter of the 17th century.

Self-portrait by Rembrandt (1661)Enlarge

Self-portrait by Rembrandt (1661)

Rembrandt was also a proficient engraver and made many drawings. His contributions to art came in a period that historians call the Dutch Golden Age (roughly equivalent to the 17th century), in which Dutch culture, science, commerce, world power and political influence reached their pinnacles.

Table of contents
1 Works
2 Life
3 Influences
4 Students
5 Periods, themes, and styles
6 Museum collections
7 Famous works
8 The Night Watch
9 Expert assessments
10 See also
11 External links


In all, Rembrandt produced around 600 paintings, 300 etchings, and 2,000 drawings. He was a prolific painter of self-portraits, producing almost a hundred of them (including some 20 etchings) throughout his long career. Together they give us a remarkably clear picture of the man, his looks, and - more importantly - his emotions, as misfortune and sorrow etched wrinkles in his face.

Among the prominent characteristics of his work are his command of light and dark, often using stark contrasts, thus drawing the viewer into the painting; his dramatic and lively scenes, devoid of any rigid formality that contemporary artists often displayed; and his ostensibly deep-felt compassion for mankind, irrespective of wealth and age.

His immediate family - his first wife Saskia, his son Titus, and his second wife Hendrickje - often figured prominently in his paintings, many of which had mythical, biblical, or historical themes.


Rembrandt was born on July 15, 1606, in Leiden, the Netherlands; he was one of nine children. His father was a miller, his mother was a baker's daughter. He spent his youth and most of his early years as a painter there. He attended Latin school and studied less than a year at the University of Leiden.

In 1621, he decided to dedicate himself fully to painting and took lessons from Leiden artist Jacob van Swanenburgh. After a brief but important apprenticeship in Amsterdam, Rembrandt opened a studio in Leiden, which he shared with friend and colleague Jan Lievens. In 1627, Rembrandt began to accept students.

By 1631, Rembrandt had established such a sound reputation that he received several assignments for portraits from Amsterdam. As a result, he moved to that city and into the house of his art dealer, Hendrick van Uylenburgh. This move eventually led, in 1634, to the marriage of Rembrandt and Hendrick's wealthy niece, Saskia van Uylenburg. A daughter of a patrician, she introduced him to higher social circles, which increased his fame.

In 1639, Rembrandt and Saskia moved to a prominent house in the Jodenbreestraat in the Jewish quarter, which later became the Rembrandt House Museum. Three of their children died shortly after birth. Their fourth child, a son, Titus, was born in 1641 and survived into adulthood. Saskia died in 1642 soon after Titus' birth, from tuberculosis.

In 1645, Hendrickje Stoffels, who had initially been Rembrandt's maidservant, moved in with him. In 1654 they had a daughter, Cornelia, bringing them an official reproach from the church for "living in sin".

Rembrandt lived beyond his means, buying many art pieces, costumes (often used in his paintings), and rarities, which caused his bankruptcy in 1656. He had to sell his house and move to a more modest accommodation on the Rozengracht. Here, Hendrickje and Titus started an art shop to make ends meet. Rembrandt's fame waned in these years, only to be restored later.

Rembrandt outlived Hendrickje and Titus. In the end, only his daughter Cornelia was at his side. He died October 4, 1669, in Amsterdam in poverty and was buried in an unknown grave in the Westerkerk.


Rembrandt's first teacher, Jacob van Swanenburgh, taught him much of the art of etching.

Rembrandt studied with Pieter Lastman for half a year in Amsterdam. Lastman, a painter of biblical, mythological and historical scenes, is considered a major influence. He gave Rembrandt a good sense of composition and made him perceptive of religion and history as sources of inspiration for this work. Lastman had studied in Italy, in the early years of the century, and naturally passed his Italian discoveries to Rembrandt. This is quite possibly where he learned the Italian technique of adding bees-wax to his oil paint, which helped to give his paintings the well known relief and luminosity that they have.


Many students of Rembrandt became famous in their own right. Among them were:

Rembrandt experts disagree about the authenticity of many paintings that were long attributed to him: Were they made by Rembrandt himself, by one of his students, or both?

Periods, themes, and styles

Museum collections

Famous works

This is just a small selection. Many of Rembrandt's paintings are famous around the world.

The Night Watch

Main article: Night Watch (painting)

'The Night Watch' or 'The Militia Company of Captain Frans Banning Cocq', 1642, Oil on Canvas, Rijksmuseum, AmsterdamEnlarge

'The Night Watch' or 'The Militia Company of Captain Frans Banning Cocq', 1642, Oil on Canvas, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Rembrandt painted The Militia Company of Captain Frans Banning Cocq between 1640 and 1642. This picture was called the Patrouille de Nuit by the French and the Night Watch by Sir Joshua Reynolds because, upon its discovery, the picture was so dimmed and defaced by time that it was almost indistinguishable and it looked quite like a night scene. After it was cleaned, it was discovered to represent broad day - a party of musketeers stepping from a gloomy courtyard into the blinding sunlight.

The piece was commissioned for the new hall of the Kloveniersdoelen, the musketeer branch of the civic militia. Rembrandt departed from convention, which ordered that such genre pieces should be stately and formal, rather a line-up than an action scene. Instead he showed the militia readying themselves to embark on a mission (what kind of mission, an ordinary patrol or some special event, is a matter of debate). His new approach caused a row, especially among the militia members who ended up at the back of the scene and were hardly visible. Payment was delayed. Even parts of the canvas were cut off to make the painting fit on the designated wall.

This painting now hangs in the largest hall of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. It is a large painting that takes up the entire back wall - despite having had bits cut off - and is arguably one of the most impressive paintings displayed there.

Expert assessments

In 1968, the Rembrandt Research Project (RRP) was started under the sponsorship of the Netherlands Organization for the Advancement of Scientific Research (NWO). Art historians teamed up with experts from other fields to reassess the authenticity of works attributed to Rembrandt, using all methods available, including state-of-the-art technical diagnostics, and to compile a complete critical catalog of his paintings. As a result of their findings, many paintings that were previously attributed to Rembrandt have been taken from the list. Many of those are now thought to be the work of his students. This included The Polish Rider, one of the treasures of New York's Frick Collection. Years ago, its authenticity was questioned by several scholars, led by Julius Held. Many, including Dr. Josua Bruyn of the Foundation Rembrandt Research Project, now attribute the painting to one of Rembrandt's closest and most talented pupils, Willem Drost.

As of 2003, the investigation is still in progress.

Today, a Rembrandt painting can sell for more than US$2828 000 000.

See also

External links