Rembrandt the artist
There are many places in Amsterdam where you can encounter Rembrandt van Rijn and his work. The finest masterpieces by the great artist and his pupils can be seen within a radius of a couple of kilometres of the Rembrandt House. However there is no better place to learn about the artist, his methods and sources of inspiration than the Rembrandt House Museum. You can see where he lived and made his most famous work, and experience what went on in the workshop where Rembrandt’s many pupils were trained.
A Huge Output
Altogether Rembrandt made three hundred or so paintings, two hundred and ninety etchings and two thousand drawings. His remarkable mastery of the interplay of light and shade, with strong contrasts (chiaroscuro), produced dynamic scenes full of drama. He inspired his pupils with this style and influenced the development of western art history. The Rembrandt House is the place where hundreds of other paintings were made under the master’s personal supervision—paintings which still have experts debating the extent of the artist’s involvement.
Rembrandt became a highly successful painter at an early age. He was celebrated above all as a portraitist and earned a great deal of money from it. His later life was plagued by personal misfortune and financial problems. Yet his art did not suffer. Rembrandt’s late work inspires artists and art lovers to this day. In the face of adversity his work remained in demand in those late years and he retained his reputation as an artist and teacher. His name was known in artistic circles as far away as Italy. In a travel journal written by the Florentine crown prince Cosimo de’ Medici, the later Archduke Cosimo III, there is reference to ‘the famous painter’, whom the crown prince had visited.
A Sharp Image
We know almost nothing about Rembrandt from his writings; the five written sources by the artist concerned solely the commercial side of his art. We only get an idea of the man through his work, particularly his penetrating portraits. We actually feel we are meeting many merchants, patricians, clerics and their wives through Rembrandt’s portraits. He brought his wife Saskia, their son Titus and his later lover, Hendrickje Stoffels, to life as models for biblical, mythological and historical figures. But it is above all his self-portraits that make us feel such a strong connection to this man, a painter who knew how to capture the essence of the highs and lows of his own life—and ours too. His hundred painted and twenty etched self-portraits, sometimes portraying him as a figure from the Bible, sometimes as himself, give us a sharply-delineated image of his outer and inner worlds.