Rembrandt – History Painting
Europe has played a significant role in shaping the world of art. From the renaissance and romanticism to impressionism and post-impressionism, the continent has been responsible for initiating the most important and influential art movements and painting techniques.
With that being said, there is no denying that Europe has always been a home to prolific artists and painters who revolutionized the world of art eternally. From Leonardo Da Vinci and Vincent Van Gogh to Claude Monet and Pablo Picasso, the most notable artists have come from Europe.
One of the most widely-recognized and prized European artists was the Dutch artist Rembrandt Van Rijn. In today’s article, we will talk about Rembrandt and look into some of the best works of his career.
Early Life and Beginning the Artistic Journey
The ninth child of Harmen Gerritszoon Van Rijn and Neeltgen Willemdochter, Rembrandt Van Rijn was born in July 15 1606, in Leiden, Netherlands. He was born as Rembrandt Harmenzsoon Van Rijn and belonged to a quite well-to-do family – his father was a miller and mother was a baker’s daughter.
Both of his parents were quite religious, his father belonged to a Dutch Reformed Church, and his mother was Roman Catholic. That is why; it is often believed that Rembrandt’s work had deep religious iconography. However, there has been no evidence about Rembrandt’s own religious beliefs.
As a kid, little Rembrandt attended an elementary school and later enrolled at the Leiden Latin School. While in school, he was greatly inclined towards art and paintings. In addition to his passion for paintings, the Latin school primarily focused on classics and biblical studies, which paved the way for his future paintings and etchings.
Considering Rembrandt’s interest in arts, he went for training under Leiden history painter Jacob Van Swanenburgh. Rembrandt spent three years with Jacob and learned about the fundamentals, knowledge, and skills of art and painting.
Following the first apprenticeship with Swanenburgh, Rembrandt then apprenticed Pieter Lastman, with whom he spent six months. At Lastman’s, he mastered one particular art genre – the history painting genre. Finally, in 1624 and 1625, Rembrandt opened his first studio, which he shared with his friend Jan Lievens.
Paintings Themes, Styles, and Etchings
Talking about Rembrandt’s painting themes and styles in earlier days of his career, Rembrandt was highly influenced by Lastman’s work as he had recently left Lastman’s apprenticeship – to the extent that many critics considered them. To be ‘mere remake of Lastman’s compositions.’
However, between 1627 and 1629, the world witnessed a drastic change in Rembrandt’s painting style. During this period, Rembrandt made great use of lighting in his works. While there were clusters of darker tones in the background, the foreground was exaggerated with wide use of light.
In 1628, Rembrandt made his first-ever etchings, a decision which later proved to be a significant moment in his career that propelled him to international fame. With Rembrandt’s earlier etchings, many historians described Rembrandt as a self-taught artist who later became an incredible artist.
It is also worth noting that many artists used standard and highly-stylized etching techniques in those days. On the contrary, Rembrandt used many losers and free etching techniques, which seemed more-sketch and painterly.
Now that we have learned about one of Europe’s most delicate and best-prized artists, let us look at some of the best Rembrandt van Rijn paintings.
The Night Watch
At number 1, we have the absolute master class – the Night Watch. This particular painting was commissioned by Captain Frans Banning Cocq and the 17 members of his company.
The colossal masterpiece features 34 members of the company of civil guards led by Cocq himself. The realistic portrayal of characters and dynamic use of light and shadow made the painting and its characters so real that it seemed as if they would jump off the canvas into the real world.
Regarded as one of the most famous works in group portraiture, the Night Watch was named “The Company of Captain Frans Banning Cocq and Lieutenant Willem Van Ruytenburch. However, considering the use of light and application of shadow and spotlight, the painting was named ‘The Night Watch.’
The Jewish Bride
Rembrandt painted the Jewish Bride during his last years, 1667, also known as the Fourth Amsterdam Period (1658-69). The painting got its name in the 19th century when an Amsterdam-based art collector interpreted the characters’ in the painting as a Jewish father and his daughter.
However, there have been many speculations about the character in the later years. Many critics also believed that the characters are lovers or a married couple – the Biblical character Isaac and his wife, Rebecca. On the contrary, some critics believe the characters are a father-daughter duo, just like the art collector, and the necklace is interpreted to be a present given by the father to his daughter.
The painting today can be viewed at Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. It’s another excellent example of Rembrandt’s masterful ability to capture raw emotion on canvas.
The Return of The Prodigal Son
Rembrandt’s last known art piece, The Return of The Prodigal Son, refers to the famous biblical tale of the same name. In the painting, the father reaches out to embrace his son, while the brother frowns, crossing his arms as if he is in disapproval.
The painting is considered one of the artist’s most moving works due to its portrayal of the strong bond shared by a father and his child. The father figure has been interpreted as expressing multiple emotions, including grief, mercy, and love.
Many art critics consider The Return of the Prodigal Son to be Rembrandt’s greatest masterpiece. As with most of his works, the artist displays his mastery in the use of excessive lighting and coloring.
The Bottom Line
One of the most revered artists of Europe, Rembrandt’s work remains to be some of the most valuable. His paintings are distinguished by his unparalleled mastery of light, his unique ability to capture the texture of fabrics, and the expression and emotion he brings to each figure.