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Rembrandt van Rijn – short biography

One of the most skilful printmakers and painters in European art history born in 1606 on July 16, Rembrandt van Rijn created his artworks during the period of time known by historians as the Dutch Golden Age. Rembrandt van Rijn died in 1669 on October 4.

Having enjoyed some success during his youth, Rembrandt’s later years were marked by severe financial problems and personal tragedy. Yet the Dutch master’s paintings and etchings were favoured throughout his entire life, while his high reputation as an artist never faded, and for two decades he taught most significant Dutch painters.

Rembrandt’s most important creative victories are exemplified particularly in his self-portraits, portrait paintings of his contemporaries and illustrations of religious Christian events. The artist’s self-portraits create an intimate and unique biography, in which Rembrandt surveyed himself with the utmost sincerity and without vanity.

The themes of narrative and landscape painting as well as portraiture were Rembrandt’s main subjects throughout his career. For the first, he was particularly admired by his contemporaries, who considered him as a masterful interpreter of biblical writings for his specialty in expressing emotions and detailed attention.

His painting style developed from the early ‘smooth’ way, characterized by a meticulous technique in portraying illusionist form, to the late ‘rough’ treatment of richly variegated painted surfaces, which allowed for an illusionism of style suggested by the paint’s tactile quality itself.

For most of his career Rembrandt created etchings, between 1626 and 1660, when the painter was forced selling his printing-press virtually abandoning the art of etching. Solely during the tragic year of 1649 no dated work was produced. Rembrandt was closely involved in the printmaking’s entire process, and he must have printed at least early etching samples of himself.

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Rembrandt painted his most famous work ‘The Militia Company of Captain Frans Banning Cocq’ between 1640 and 1642. The Dutch called this enormous painting ‘De Nachtwacht and the ‘Night Watch’ by Sir Joshua Reynolds due, upon the work’s discovery, the artwork was so defaced and dimmed by time that it was nearly indistinguishable and it looked almost like a night scene. After the painting was cleaned, it became clear to represent broad daytime—a group of musketeers walking from a shady courtyard into the bright sunlight.

Rembrandt’s most notable collection of artwork can be seen at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, including ‘De Nachtwacht’ (The Night Watch) as well as ‘Het Joodse bruidje’ (The Jewish Bride). Het Mauritshuis in The Hague displays numerous of his self-portraits. Amsterdam’s Rembrandt House Museum is the master’s preserved home, displaying an extensive collection of his etchings.

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