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Friday, January 3, 2014

Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn


The Company of captain Frans Banning Cocq and lieutenant Willem van Ruytenburch preparing to march out, known as the ‘Night Watch’
1642
oil on canvas
363 x 437 cm
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

The painting is said to have been commissioned by the Captain and seventeen members of his Kloveniers (civic militia guards) to hang in the banquet hall of the newly built Kloveniersdoelen (Musketeers' Meeting Hall) in Amsterdam. In the 18th century the painting became known as the Night Watch. This is one of the most famous paintings in the world and is prominently displayed in the Rijksmuseum as the best known painting in its collection.

"Choose only one master -  Nature." (Rembrandt)

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (1606-1669), born in Leiden as the eighth of nine children of well-to-do millers, was a Dutch painter and etcher. Despite the fact that he came from a family of relatively modest means, his parents took great care with his education. He was the first and the only of their sons who was sent to the school for Latin. After seven years’ schooling (1613-1620), at the age of 14, Rembrandt entered the Philosophical Faculty of Leiden University to study Classics. He is generally considered one of the greatest painters and printmakers 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, when Dutch Golden Age painting, although in many ways antithetical to the Baroque style that dominated Europe, was extremely prolific and innovative.

Having achieved youthful success as a portrait painter, Rembrandt's later years were marked by personal tragedy and financial hardships. Between 1635 and 1641 Saskia (his wife) gave birth to four children, but only the last, Titus, survived; her own death came in 1642 - at the age of 30. Hendrickje Stoffels, engaged as his housekeeper about 1649, eventually became his common-law wife and was the model for many of his pictures. Despite Rembrandt's financial success as an artist, teacher, and art dealer, his penchant for ostentatious living forced him to declare bankruptcy in 1656. Yet these problems in no way affected Rembrandt's work. His etchings and paintings were popular throughout his lifetime, his reputation as an artist remained high. 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.

His paintings are characterized by luxuriant brushwork, rich color, and a mastery of chiaroscuro. He was a master of light and shadow whose paintings, drawings, and etchings made him a giant in the history of art. Numerous portraits and self-portraits exhibit a profound penetration of character. His drawings constitute a vivid record of contemporary Amsterdam life. His self-portraits form a unique and intimate biography, in which the artist surveyed himself without vanity and with the utmost sincerity. Because of his renown as a teacher, his studio was filled with pupils, some of whom were already trained artists.