Sunday, April 29, 2012

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn

Hendrickje Stoffels
Oil on canvas
78.4 x 68.9 cm (30 7/8 x 27 1/8 in.)
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (1606 - 1669) was a Dutch painter and etcher. He was born in Leiden as a son of a miller. Despite the fact that he came from a family of relatively modest means, his parents took great care with his education. Rembrandt began his studies at the Latin School, and at the age of 14 he was enrolled at the University of Leiden.

He is generally considered one of the greatest painters in European art history and the most important in Dutch history. His contributions to art came in a period of great wealth and cultural achievement that historians call the Dutch Golden Age.
His paintings are characterized by luxuriant brushwork, rich color, and a mastery of chiaroscuro. Numerous portraits and self-portraits exhibit a profound penetration of character. His drawings constitute a vivid record of contemporary Amsterdam life. The greatest artist of the Dutch school, he was a master of light and shadow whose paintings, drawings, and etchings made him a giant in the history of art.

In contrast to his successful public career, Rembrandt's family life was marked by misfortune. His wife Saskia gave birth to four children, but only the last, Titus, survived; her own death came soon at the age of 30. Hendrickje Stoffels, engaged as his housekeeper thereafter, eventually became his common-law wife and was the model for many of his pictures. Despite Rembrandt's financial success as an artist, his penchant for ostentatious living forced him to declare bankruptcy. These problems in no way affected Rembrandt's work; if anything, his artistry increased. His personal life, however, continued to be marred by sorrow. His beloved Hendrickje died in 1663, and his son, Titus, in 1668 - only 27 years of age. Eleven months later, on October 4, 1669, Rembrandt died in Amsterdam.