Rembrandt van Rijn
|Rembrandt Short Information Sheet:|
Rembrandt van Rhijn, was born at Leyden in 1606. His father was a miller. He sent his son to the University to study law, but the boy showed no desire to pass his time in study and recreation. He made up his mind to devote himself to painting.
His father was sensible enough to give way, and Rembrandt went into the studio of a painter called Van Swanenburgh. He was then about sixteen years old, and was already so clever that his parents soon sent him to Amsterdam.
However, he knew more than all his masters there, so he returned home, and started painting on his own account. In Leyden he worked and gave lessons for seven years, when he again went to Amsterdam, where he painted most of his great masterpieces like "The Night Watch," and "The Lesson in Anatomy".
Rembrandt was born in 1606 at the city of Leyden. He studied art, first in his native town, and then for a few months in the studio of Pieter Lastman at Amsterdam. He began his marvellous series of works at Leyden in 1627, and he died at Amsterdam in 1669.
His life was one of hard work. He passed through the joyous experiences of a happy married life. He fell upon dark days, and had to steer his bark over stormy seas. But all through the forty years of his working life he sent forth portraits and pictures and etchings in most wonderful profusion. Any one who wishes to see what manner of man he was in his early prime, when the world was before him, when, happy in his home and in his labour, the skies smiled upon him, and the path of life was smooth and flowery, has only to go to the National Gallery and study the portrait, painted in 1640 by his own hand with all the skill and marvellous light and shade of which he was so consummate a master.
Close beside it, and hung so that the eye can readily pass from the one to the other, hangs another portrait of himself by himself, executed in 1657. Many years have passed since the earlier one was painted. The wife of his love, Saskia, has long since passed away ; he has known what it is to be in need; he has tried the world, and found it very different from what he expected in the days of his prosperity, and in the contrast between the seamed, worn, older yet courageous face, and the fresh, bright, younger countenance, is written the story of his life. Bold, independent of tradition and of what others thought about him ; not a man to go out of his way to court the world's smile ; living for his art, working it out according to the conceptions of his genius, and untrammelled by bondage to any school, Rembrandt went steadily through life, achieving little as many of his contemporaries dreamed it not only the headship of the Dutch school, but a permanent place among the greatest artists of the world.
In confirmation of this view, we may quote the words of one of the latest and best English exponents of Rembrandt's power: "The glory of Dutch art, in which Rembrandt will for ever stand the master, lies in its naturalness. It was the art of a people who had gained their freedom. The struggle for independence through which they had passed, the resolute character which rendered independence possible, the new political and social conditions on which they had entered, the faith which had rebelled against the ornate, and clung to the Puritan form, and the isolation which was the natural outcome of all this, had shattered all earlier traditions of art and created a new influence.
Art formed itself into a new school, and those who would lead this art were compelled to originality; they were driven to Nature as their teacher, and they set themselves to learn her lessons. And of this style Rembrandt was the leader and the chief; and that which he so earnestly strove after is seen in all the Dutch school, however little at first sight they appear to have been led by his influence. We see his teaching in the interiors of Van Ostade, the woodland glades of Hobbema, the cattle of Potter, the courtyards of de Hooch, the seas of Bakhuysen and Van der Velde the same love of reality pervades them all." The breadth of his power was so remarkable.
As portrait painter, in figure pictures of the highest class, and in smaller subjects, both sacred and secular, he is unrivalled. The "Company of Frans Banning Cocq and Willem van Ruytenburch" is one of those works. The painting is better known as the "Night Watch", a more than usually absurd popular name, inasmuch as the scene is in the sunlight.