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Rembrandt : The Colossus of Art

Self Portrait

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn was a Dutch painter, draughtsman and printmaker. An innovative and prolific master in three media. He is considered one of the best painters in art history. Rembrandt's works depict a wide range of style and subject matter, from portraits to self portraits, landscapes, allegorical, historical, biblical and mythological scenes. His art was extremely prolific and innovative and gave rise to important new genres. The French sculptor Auguste Rodin once said " compare me with Rembrandt! What sacrilege! With Rembrandt, the colossus of art! We should prostrate ourselves before Rembrandt ". Vincent van Gogh wrote, " Rembrandt goes so deep into the mysterious that he says things for which there are no words in any language. It is with justice they call Rembrandt- magician- that's no easy occupation". It is believed what other painters could do in five brush strokes Rembrandt could do in one.


He was born on 15th July 1606 to a well to do family. His father was a miller and his mother was a baker's daughter. At 14, he was enrolled at the university of Leiden, though his interest was more inclined towards painting. He opened a studio at the age of 18 and began accepting students at the age of 21. He was discovered by the statesman Constantijn Huygens father of the physicist Christiaan Huygens who procured for Rembrandt important commissions from the court of Hague.

Rembrandt married Saskia Uylenburgh and moved into their newly built house ( now Rembrandt house Museum). A series of misfortunes became a cause for his later financial difficulties. Also his son died two months after his birth, his daughter died three weeks after her birth, his second daughter lived barely a month. Only their fourth child, Titus, survived into adulthood. Saskia died soon after Titus's birth from Tuberculosis. Rembrandt died a poor man. Rich and poor die alike, only the great have their names etched in glory.

Self portrait with Saskia

Rembrandt used light in such a way as though the audience in the dark is gazing into an illuminated room. In his portraits, the nose is the line of demarcation distinguishing the shadows of one side of the face from the illuminated side. He used a good amount of impasto in his paintings.

The Night Watch

In his painting The Night Watch, Rembrandt focuses on reds and yellows in the foreground where the captains are discussing and planning amidst a crowd of restless men with guns and weapons. Yellow represents victory and the dead chicken on the woman in yellow represents the defeat of the adversary.

The return of the Prodigal Son

This painting depicts a scene from a parable in the Bible where an extravagant son after squandering the money of his father returns home repenting and his father reconciles him with an embrace.

The Anatomy lesson of Dr Nicolaes Tulp

In those days Surgeons paid commissions to the painters to be included in the painting And Rembrandt did receive a good amount of commission.

The Jewish Bride

This painting shows the most tender love between a couple in all it's purity. The fabric of the clothes of the man and the woman can be almost felt with the eyes.

The storm at the sea of Galilee

This painting was stolen in 1990 and is still missing. It shows a boat caught in the ferocious waves of the stormy sea just before Jesus commands the storm to calm. It is not a painting, it is a prayer of Rembrandt asking God to calm the storm of his life.

Philosopher in meditation

The old age makes a man reminisce the memories of his past, his victories and defeats, basking in the realisation that the stairs of death are only a few feet away.

The Descent from the cross

How meaningless is the body, it has to perish. With lack of awareness after my death, who cares who comes for my funeral.


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